Neurotensin, a tridecapeptide widely distributed in the gut, stimulates growth of small bowel mucosa in young and aged rats. In the present study, the effect of long-term neurotensin administration on the growth of colonic mucosa was examined in young (2-month-old) and aged (24-month-old) rats. Subcutaneous injections of saline (control) or neurotensin (300 μg/kg) in gelatin were given to the groups of rats every 8 hours for 10 days. During treatment, all rats were maintained on a regular chow diet. Rats were killed on day 11; the entire colon was removed, mucosa was scraped and weighed, and DNA, RNA, and protein contents were determined. Neurotensin induced growth of colonic mucosa in both age groups. In young rats, neurotensin increased weight and DNA, RNA, and protein contents of colonic mucosa. The ratio of DNA content, an index of cellular hyperplasia, was increased significantly in the neurotensin-treated young rats compared with age-matched controls, indicating an overall increase in mucosal cellularity. In the aged rats, growth was characterized by an increase in weight and RNA and protein contents, but not DNA content, thus suggesting cellular hypertrophy. These results suggest that neurotensin has an important regulatory function in the growth of colonic mucosa; however, the mode of action, at the cellular level, appears to be different depending on age.
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