Glucocorticoids mediate the enhanced expression of intestinal type II arginase and argininosuccinate lyase in postweaning pigs.
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Arginine metabolism is enhanced in the small intestine of weanling pigs, but the molecular mechanism(s) involved is not known. The objectives of this study were to determine the following: 1) whether glucocorticoids play a role in induction of intestinal arginine metabolic enzymes during weaning; 2) whether the induction of enzyme activities was due to increases in corresponding mRNA levels; and 3) the identity of the arginase isoform(s) expressed in the small intestine. Jejunum was obtained from 29-d-old weaned pigs that were or were not treated with 17-beta-hydroxy-11beta-(4-dimethylaminophenyl)17alpha-(prop- 1-ynyl)es tra-4,9-dien-3-one (RU486, an antagonist of glucocorticoid receptors), or from age-matched suckling pigs. Activities and mRNA levels for type I and type II arginases, argininosuccinate synthase (ASS) and argininosuccinate lyase (ASL) were determined. Activities of arginase, ASL and ASS increased by 635, 56 and 106%, respectively, in weanling pigs, compared with suckling pigs. RU486 treatment attenuated the increase in arginase activity by 74% and completely prevented the ASL induction in weanling pigs, but had no effect on ASS activity. Pig intestine expresses both type I and type II arginases. On the basis of immunoblot analyses, there was no significant difference in levels of intestinal type I arginase among these three groups of pigs, indicating that changes in arginase activity were due only to type II arginase. The mRNA levels for type II arginase and ASL increased by 135 and 198%, respectively, in weanling pigs compared with suckling pigs, and this induction was completely prevented by RU486. In contrast, ASS mRNA levels did not differ between suckling and weanling pigs. These results suggest that intestinal type II arginase, ASS and ASL are regulated differentially at transcriptional and post-translational levels and that glucocorticoids play a major role in the induction of type II arginase and ASL mRNAs in the small intestine of weanling pigs.