Physiological constraint on feeding behavior: intestinal membrane disaccharidases of the starling

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Science  10 Feb 1989:
Vol. 243, Issue 4892, pp. 794-796
DOI: 10.1126/science.2916126


Animals clearly choose what they eat and can even choose among chemically different sugars. The physiological and biochemical mechanisms that constrain feeding choices are largely unknown. In this study, European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) preferred mixture solutions of D-glucose plus D-fructose to equimolar (double molar caloric value) solutions of sucrose. Intubation feeding of sucrose did not increase blood glucose levels. Sucrose is a useless energy source for these birds because they lack a single digestive enzyme (sucrase) on the small intestinal brush border membrane. However, the membranes possessed separate maltase and isomaltase disaccharidases. This expression pattern and expression patterns of membrane disaccharidases among mammals suggest a role for intestinal enzymes in the coevolutionary interactions between vertebrates and their plant food sources.

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