AIM To investigate the effects of orally gavaged aqueous rhubarb extract (RE) on 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-induced intestinal mucositis in rats. METHODS Female Dark Agouti rats (n = 8/group) were gavaged daily (1 mL) with water, high-dose RE (HDR; 200 mg/ kg) or low-dose RE (LDR; 20mg/kg) for eight days. Intestinal mucositis was induced (day 5) with 5-FU (150 mg/kg) via intraperitoneal injection. Intestinal tissue samples were collected for myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity and histological examination. Xenopus oocytes expressing aquaporin 4 water channels were prepared to examine the effect of aqueous RE on cell volume, indicating a potential mechanism responsible for modulating net fluid absorption and secretion in the gastrointestinal tract. Statistical significance was assumed at P < 0.05 by one-way ANOVA. RESULTS Bodyweight was significantly reduced in rats administered 5-FU compared to healthy controls (P < 0.01). Rats administered 5-FU significantly increased intestinal MPO levels (> 307%; P < 0.001), compared to healthy controls. However, LDR attenuated this effect in 5-FU treated rats, significantly decreasing ileal MPO activity (by 45%; P < 0.05), as compared to 5-FU controls. 5-FU significantly reduced intestinal mucosal thickness (by > 29% P < 0.001) as compared to healthy controls. LDR significantly increased ileal mucosal thickness in 5-FU treated rats (19%; P < 0.05) relative to 5-FU controls. In xenopus oocytes expressing AQP4 water channels, RE selectively blocked water influx into the cell, induced by a decrease in external osmotic pressure. As water efflux was unaltered by the presence of extracellular RE, the directional flow of water across the epithelial barrier, in the presence of extracellular RE, indicated that RE may alleviate water loss across the epithelial barrier and promote intestinal health in chemotherapy-induced intestinal mucositis. CONCLUSION In summary, low dose RE improves selected parameters of mucosal integrity and reduces ileal inflammation, manifesting from 5-FU-induced intestinal mucositis.
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