The study aimed to examine the effects of insoluble and soluble fibers on mucin sialylation and sulfation in the small intestine. First, diets containing soluble [konjac mannan (KM), psyllium, or guar gum; 50 g/kg) or insoluble (polystyrene foam, wheat bran, or cornhusk; 80 g/kg) fiber were fed to rats for 13 d. The fiber-fed groups had more goblet cells in the ileum than the fiber-free control group. High-iron diamine/alcian blue staining showed more sialylated mucin-producing cells in the fiber-fed groups than in the control, whereas sulfated mucin-producing cells were fewer (insoluble fibers) or unchanged (soluble fibers). Second, feeding KM (50 g/kg) and beet fiber (BF) (80 g/kg) diets for 7 d yielded a higher ileum Siat4C expression than the control, but Gal3ST2 and Gal3ST4 expression was comparable. Luminal mucin content correlated with sialic acid (r = 0.96; P < 0.001) or sulfate (r = 0.62; P < 0.01), but the slope of the sialic acid-derived equation was greater than that of the sulfate-derived equation, indicating a preferred increase in sialylated mucins. Third, rats were fed the control diet for 10 d while receiving antibiotic treatment. Analysis of the luminal mucin showed that sialylated mucins were more vulnerable to bacterial degradation than sulfated mucins. Finally, a study of bromo-deoxyuridine incorporation in rats fed a BF diet indicated that goblet cell proliferation accompanied by increased sialylated mucin appeared to be related to accelerated ileal epithelial cell migration. We conclude that intestinal goblet cell responses to insoluble and soluble fibers are characterized by increases in sialylated mucin production.
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