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Absorption of sugars in the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus): a paradox explained

Tracy, C.R., McWhorter, T.J., Korine, C., Wojciechowski, M.S., Pinshow, B. and Karasov, W.H. (2007) Absorption of sugars in the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus): a paradox explained. Journal of Experimental Biology, 210 (10). pp. 1726-1734.

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Two decades ago D. J. Keegan reported results on Egyptian fruit bats (Rousettus aegyptiacus, Megachiroptera) that were strangely at odds with the prevailing understanding of how glucose is absorbed in the mammalian intestine. Keegan's in vitro tests for glucose transport against a concentration gradient and with phloridzin inhibition in fruit bat intestine were all negative, although he used several different tissue preparations and had positive control results with laboratory rats. Because glucose absorption by fruit bats is nonetheless efficient, Keegan postulated that the rapid glucose absorption from the fruit bat intestine is not through the enterocytes, but must occur via spaces between the cells. Thus, we hypothesized that absorption of water-soluble compounds that are not actively transported would be extensive in these bats, and would decline with increasing molecular mass in accord with sieve-like paracellular absorption. We did not presume from Keegan's studies that there is no Na +-coupled, mediated sugar transport in these bats, and our study was not designed to rule it out, but rather to quantify the level of possible non-mediated absorption. Using a standard pharmacokinetic technique, we fed, or injected intraperitonealy, the metabolically inert carbohydrates L-rhamnose (molecular mass=164 Da) and cellobiose (molecular mass=342 Da), which are absorbed by paracellular uptake, and 3-O-methyl-D-glucose (3OMD-glucose), a D-glucose analog that is absorbed via both mediated (active) and paracellular uptake. As predicted, the bioavailability of paracellular probes declined with increasing molecular mass (rhamnose, 62±4%; cellobiose, 22±4%) and was significantly higher in bats than has been reported for rats and other mammals. In addition, fractional absorption of 3OMD-glucose was high (91±2%). We estimated that Egyptian fruit bats rely on passive, paracellular absorption for the majority of their glucose absorption (at least 55% of 3OMD-glucose absorption), much more than in non-flying mammals.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary Biology and Biomedical Science
Publisher: Company of Biologists
Copyright: © The Company of Biologists Limited 2007
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