Intestinal diffusion barrier: unstirred water layer or membrane surface mucous coat?

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Science  11 Dec 1981:
Vol. 214, Issue 4526, pp. 1241-1244
DOI: 10.1126/science.7302593


The dimensions of the small intestinal diffusion barrier interposed between luminal nutrients and their membrane receptors were determined from kinetic analysis of substrate hydrolysis by integral surface membrane enzymes. The calculated equivalent thickness of the unstirred water layer was too large to be compatible with the known dimensions of rat intestine. The discrepancy could be reconciled by consideration of the mucous coat overlying the intestinal surface membrane. Integral surface membrane proteins could not be labeled by an iodine-125 probe unless the surface coat was first removed. The mucoprotein surface coat appears to constitute an important diffusion barrier for nutrients seeking their digestive and transport sites on the outer intestinal membrane.