Burn and starvation increase programmed cell death in small bowel epithelial cells

Marc G. Jeschke, Meelie A. Debroy, Steven E. Wolf, Srinivasan Rajaraman, James C. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Maintenance of gut mucosal homeostasis depends on a balance between cell proliferation and cell death. Gut mucosal integrity is impaired after severe burn and during starvation. We determined the effect of burn, starvation, and the combination of both on small bowel epithelial apoptosis and proliferation. Fifty adult male Fischer 344 rats (260-300 g) received a 60% full-thickness scald burn and were randomly divided into fed and starved groups. Small intestine was taken at 12, 24, and 48 hr after injury. All animals in the 12-hr group were starved while recovering from anesthesia. Apoptosis was quantified by immunohistochemical staining (TUNEL) and mucosal proliferation was determined by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation. The apoptotic index was higher in burned rats compared to controls at 12 hr after burn; both these groups were starved (P < 0.05). At 24 and 48 hr after burn, apoptosis was highest in the starved groups, with no additional effects of burn (P < 0.05). Mucosal epithelial cell proliferation was not different between groups at any time point. In conclusion, burn and starvation both increase apoptosis in the small bowel mucosa; however, these effects are not additive. Apoptosis could be attenuated by enteral feeding, which delineates the importance of early enteral feeding initiation after injury to maintain mucosal integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-420
Number of pages6
JournalDigestive Diseases and Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Apoptosis
  • Burns
  • Gut
  • Proliferation
  • Rats
  • Starvation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Gastroenterology


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