American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology

Differential protein abundance and function of UT-B urea transporters in human colon.

PMID 19926813


Facilitative UT-B urea transporters enable the passage of urea across cell membranes. Gastrointestinal urea transporters are thought to play a significant role in the urea nitrogen salvaging process that occurs between mammalian hosts and their gut bacteria. This study investigated the expression of UT-B urea transporters in different segments of human colon. Immunoblot analysis showed that human colon expressed a 35-kDa glycosylated UT-B protein in the colonic mucosa. The 35-kDa UT-B transporter was predominantly located in plasma membrane-enriched samples (P < 0.001; n = 6), and its expression was greater in the ascending colon compared with the descending colon (P < 0.01; n = 3). At the cellular level, UT-B transporters were located throughout colonocytes situated in the upper portion of the colonic crypts. Bidirectional trans-epithelial urea transport was significantly greater in the ascending colon than the descending colon (P < 0.05; n = 6). In addition, the facilitative urea transporter inhibitor 1,3,dimethylurea significantly reduced urea transport in the ascending colon (P < 0.05; n = 6) but had no effect in the descending colon (NS; n = 6). These results illustrate differential protein abundance of functional UT-B protein in different sections of the human colon, strongly correlating to regions that contain the largest populations of intestinal bacteria. This study suggests an important role for UT-B urea transporters in maintaining the symbiotic relationship between humans and their gut bacteria.