We investigated potassium (K) transport in vitro across four major segments of the avian intestine. In normal fed birds, the most proximal segment, the duodenum, had very low unidirectional rates of K transport (Jms 6.7 nEq·cm−2·hr−1; Jsm 7.7 nEq·cm−2·hr−1). The jejunum had the greatest unidirectional K flux of the segments studied (Jms 36.6 and Jsm 85.5 nEq·cm−2·hr−1), and this segment showed a net K secretion (48.9 nEq·cm−2·hr−1). The ileum had a significantly lower Jms (16.5 nEq·cm−2·hr−1) than did the jejunum, and this segment also showed a net K secretion (28 nEq·cm−2·hr−1). Potassium transport across the mucosal surface of the colon was very low (Jms 7.7 nEq·cm−2·hr−1) while the Jsm flux was relatively large, giving a net K secretion of 45.7 nEq·cm−2·hr−1.
When tissues were bathed in solutions having approximately normal in vivo K concentrations on both sides of the membranes and open circuit PD (to simulate in vivo conditions), the jejunum was the only segment that showed a net K absorption (83 nEq·cm−2·hr−1).
When birds were fed a low K diet for 2 weeks, the colon showed the greatest response with Jms for K increasing 12 fold over control.
From these studies we conclude that in normal birds the duodenum appears to be relatively impermeable to K and does not appear to play a significant role in K transport. However, the jejunum by virtue of its relatively greater permeability to K, the total length of jejunum comprising the intestine (66%), and the in vivo K gradients, seems to be most important in K absorption in the normal bird. The ileum and colon were major sites of K secretion in vitro and appear to be most important in intestinal regulation of K transport in response to changes in the dietary K load.
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Grubb, B.R., Bentley, P.J. Potassium transport across the intestines of the fowl Gallus domesticus . J Comp Physiol B 160, 17–22 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00258758
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