Appropriate enteral nutrition provided immediately after injury or trauma to the gastrointestinal tract may limit or reverse damage to the mucosal barrier. In this regard, diets containing amino acids, such as arginine and glutamine, or fish oil have been identified as beneficial. This report assesses the role of amino acids as "essential nutrients" in the repair of intestinal mucosa damaged by γ radiation. Rats were used experimentally to test the hypothesis that the recovery of the immune responses in the intestinal mucosa, which are suppressed by radiation, can be improved by feeding an elemental amino acid diet, referred to hereafter as the diet, immediately after irradiation. The objective was to assess the impact of the diet on the expression of type I hypersensitivity or anaphylaxis in the jejunal mucosa. The local expression of this immunological response, which involves several radiosensitive cell types, was studied in rats immunized by oral infection with the nematode parasite, Trichinella spiralis. Rats that recover from infection become immunized and their small intestine undergoes anaphylaxis when subsequently challenged with parasite-derived antigen. This hypersensitivity response is expressed, in part, as Cl- secretion and can be observed in vitro or in vivo. When challenge is provided by a secondary inoculum of infective T. spiralis larvae, Cl- secretion is accompanied by fluid secretion and by the rapid expulsion of the parasite from the intestine. Immunized rats maintained on a stock diet and exposed to 7 Gy of total-abdominal irradiation from a cobalt-60 γ-ray source failed to express antigen-induced Cl- secretion fully for up to 14 days postirradiation, and rejection of the parasite was suppressed for at least 30 days postirradiation. The suppression of immune responsiveness is associated with the disappearance of intestinal mucosal mast cells, which normally trigger the anaphylactic response. When rats are maintained on the diet after irradiation, the capacity to reject the parasite remains suppressed. However, the ability to express anaphylaxis-mediated Cl- secretion returns by 3 days postirradiation. The quick, diet-supported recovery of antigen-induced Cl- secretion occurs despite the continued absence of mast cells. Although the recovery of anaphylaxis-mediated responses suppressed by irradiation is only partial, our experimental results underscore the potential for enhancing the recovery process through nutritional support.

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