Background and Aims: The trefoil factors, a family of proteins abundantly expressed in gastrointestinal mucous cells, protect the epithelium in vitro. This study determines the effects of exogenously administered trefoil peptides on experimental injury in rats in vivo. Methods: Gastric injury was induced by either intragastric absolute ethanol (1.0 mL) or subcutaneous indomethacin (20 mg/kg). Recombinant human spasmolytic polypeptide (rHSP) or rat intestinal trefoil factor (ITF) were administered at different doses and time points before or after injury. Vehicle or bovine serum albumin was used as control. The pH of the stomach contents was assessed when the rats were killed. Gastric injury was blindly evaluated macroscopically and histologically. Serum levels of rHSP and ITF were determined by an enzyme- linked immunosorbent assay. Results: Oral rHSP and ITF markedly protected against both ethanol-and indomethacin-induced gastric injury (P < 0.005 at doses of 1-15 mg/rat) when given up to 2 hours before injury; no protection was noted by intraperitoneal rHSP against ethanol injury. Intraperitoneal rHSP protected against indomethacin-induced injury only at the maximal dose given (15 mg). Neither rHSP nor ITF altered gastric pH. Protection was not associated with systemic absorption of trefoil peptides. Conclusions: Topical trefoil peptides protect the gastric mucosa against ethanol- and indomethacin-induced gastric injuries. These peptides contribute to surface mucosal defense.
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