Acid Transport through Gastric Mucus
The gastric mucosa is frequently exposed to endogenously secreted hydrochloric acid of high acidity. Gastric mucosal defense mechanisms are arranged at different levels of the gastric mucosa and must work in unison to maintain its integrity. In this work, several mechanisms underlying gastric mucosal resistance to strong acid were investigated in anesthetized rats and mice. The main findings were as follows:
Only when acid secretion occurred did the pH gradient in the mucus gel withstand back-diffusion of luminal acid (100 mM or 155 mM HCl), and keep the juxtamucosal pH (pH(jm)) neutral. Thus, with no on-going acid secretion and low luminal pH, the pH gradient was destroyed.
Bicarbonate ions, produced concomitant with hydrogen ions in the parietal cells during acid secretion and transported by the blood to the surface epithelium, were carried transepithelially through a DIDS-sensitive transport. Prostaglandin-dependent bicarbonate secretion seemed to be less important in maintaining a neutral pH(jm).
Removal of the loosely adherent mucus layer did not influence the maintenance of the pH(jm). Hence, only the firmly adherent mucus gel layer, approximately 80 microm thick, seemed to be important for the pH(jm). Staining of the mucus gel with a pH-sensitive dye revealed that secreted acid penetrated the mucus gel from the crypt openings toward the gastric lumen only in restricted paths (channels). One crypt opening was attached to one channel, and the channel was irreversibly formed during acid secretion. Gastric mucosal blood flow increased on application of strong luminal acid (155 mM HCl). This acid-induced hyperemia involved the inducible but not the neural isoform of nitric oxide synthase. These results suggest a novel role for iNOS in gastric mucosal protection and indicate that iNOS is constitutively expressed in the gastric mucosa.
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