NOV 05, 2016 4:42 PM PDT

A Fatty Meal Alters Intestinal Cells

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
New research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry outlines how certain cells in the intestine, enterocytes, respond to an encounter with a high amount of fat, such as what would come from consuming foods rich in cholesterol and triglycerides – which are found in animal and vegetable fats.
 
This is a comparison between an enterocyte cell before and after a fatty meal. Enterocytes are specialized cells that line the insides of our intestines. They grab and absorb nutrients from food as it is digested, including the lipid molecules from fatty foods. 'This is exactly what your intestine looks like after a cheeseburger,' said Carnegie's Steven Farber. / Credit: Image is provided courtesy of Farber and Erin Zeituni.
 
Inside of the intestine are enterocytes, and microvilli extend from the surface of the cells. The intestinal interior has many projections and cavities that increase the surface area of the intestine tremendously, allowing the body to maximize the absorption of nutrients. The enterocytes function to absorb and process the food during digestion. The video below has more on the process. One molecule that is taken up by the cells is a lipid from a fatty food. The researchers found that those fatty foods result in changes to the shape of organelles inside the enterocytes.
 
"When we eat fatty foods, our body's response is coordinated between our digestive organs, our nervous system, and the microbes living in our gut," said Steve Farber of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Baltimore. "Our research used zebrafish to focus on one aspect of this system--how the enterocyte cells inside our intestines respond to a high-fat meal."
 
The research team found that fatty food consumption causes the cells that line our intestines to do some interior remodeling. One such shape shift occurs in the nucleus, where the cell's DNA is stored. The team demonstrated that the nucleus takes on a rapid and reversible ruffled appearance after fatty food is consumed, which is shown in this image. / Credit: Image is provided courtesy of Steven Farber and Erin Zeituni
 
Farber’s team determined that the nucleus of a cell rapidly takes on a ruffled appearance following the consumption of fatty foods, a process that is reversible. That was of interest to the researchers especially because the nucleus houses the genetic material of a cell.
 
Delving deeper, the scientists learned that as the shape of the nucleus shifts, specific genes are also turned on, genes that regulate the packaging and distribution of lipids by the enterocytes. The researchers determined that that gene activation happens within only one hour of the high fat food consumption.
 
"Our working hypothesis is that the whole response to fat in the enterocyte--the remodeling and gene activation--may be coordinated by an organelle called the endoplasmic reticulum," explained the lead author of the work, Erin Zeituni.
 
The endoplsmic reticulum (ER) is another organelle of the cell, one that facilitates the assembly, packaging and distribution of the proteins needed by a cell. The researchers used drugs to interfere with a function of the ER. That function, the construction of lipoprotein particles, is needed to transport fats out of cells. When that interference occurred, the ruffling of the nucleus changed and for many genes, the activation process was disrupted. That suggested to the investigators that fat has an impact on the ER, which then initiates the intestinal response.
 
"So much of the process by which enterocytes prepare and package fats for distribution to the circulatory and lymphatic system is poorly understood. These findings should help increase our understanding of the basic molecular and cellular biology of intestinal cells," concluded Farber.
 

If you would like to learn more about how fat is processed by the body after a meal, check out the video above from the Khan Academy.
 
Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Carnegie Institution, Journal of Biological Chemistry
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
OCT 06, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
OCT 06, 2020
How a Carnivorous Plant Creates a 'Memory'
The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a famous carnivorous plant that can capture and consume insects and even small ...
OCT 19, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Mapping the Human Proteome
OCT 19, 2020
Mapping the Human Proteome
To learn more about biology and medicine, researchers have used advances in molecular techniques and computational biolo ...
OCT 29, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Severe Genomic Damage in Human Embryos Treated With CRISPR
OCT 29, 2020
Severe Genomic Damage in Human Embryos Treated With CRISPR
The CRISPR-Cas9 genomic editing system holds great promise for treating genetic errors that cause human disease. But we ...
NOV 02, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
NOV 02, 2020
Catching Cells in the Act of Self-Repair
Cells have to be flexible and move with each other and our bodies. When cells get overstretched, they have to be able to ...
NOV 27, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Gravity Affects Gene Expression
NOV 27, 2020
Gravity Affects Gene Expression
If people are going to explore deep space, we should learn more about the effects that such an environment would potenti ...
DEC 02, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Expanding Our View of Cell Membranes
DEC 02, 2020
Expanding Our View of Cell Membranes
Many of the things biologists want to study are extremely small, and researchers now have many powerful tools for gettin ...
Loading Comments...