It has been reported that infection with Nippostrongylus brasiliensis induces villus atrophy with various histological alterations. In N. brasiliensis-infected rats, villus length in the jejunum was reduced significantly at day 10 p.i., when serum levels of rat mast cell protease (RMCP) II had increased significantly. To determine whether the villus atrophy is associated with enhancement of apoptosis, apoptotic nuclei were labelled using the nick end-labelling method. Numbers of labelled cells were markedly increased in the villus epithelium at 7–10 days p.i., while the numbers returned to normal 14 days p.i. when worms were rejected from the intestine and villus length became normal. Examination of the expression of the adhesion molecule E-cadherin showed granular immunoreactivity in the cytoplasm of atrophic villus epithelium with loss of normal localization to epithelial cell borders. In mast cell-deficient Ws/Ws rats, villus length was reduced as significantly as in +/+ counterparts at day 10 p.i. with marked increases in the numbers of apoptotic cells. These results suggested that villus atrophy was closely associated with enhanced apoptosis and loss of adhesion in epithelial cells. Mast cell activation appears not to be involved in these alterations.
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