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Folates, an essential component (important B vitamin) in the human diet, are involved in many metabolic pathways, mainly in carbon transfer reactions such as purine and pyrimidine biosynthesis and amino acid interconversions. Deficiency of this micronutrient leads to the disruption of folate-dependent metabolic pathways that lead to the development of clinical abnormalities ranging from anaemia to growth retardation. Folate deficiency due to alcohol ingestion is quite common, primarily due to malabsorption. The present study dealt with the mechanistic insights of folate malabsorption in colonic basolateral membrane (BLM). Wistar rats (n 12) were fed 1 g/kg body weight per d ethanol (20 %) solution orally for 3 months and folate transport was studied in the isolated colonic BLM. The folate exit across colon BLM shows characteristics of carrier-mediated process with the major involvement of reduced folate carrier (RFC). The chronic ethanol ingestion decreased the uptake by decreasing the affinity by 46 % (P < 0·01) and the number of transport molecules by 43 % (P < 0·001) at the colon BLM. The decreased uptake was associated with down-regulation of proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT) and RFC expression at mRNA and protein levels. The extent of decrease was 44 % (P < 0·01) and 24 % (P < 0·05) for PCFT and 23 % (P < 0·01) and 57 % (P < 0·01) for RFC at mRNA and protein levels, respectively. Moreover, folate transporters were associated with lipid rafts (LR) of colon BLM, and chronic alcoholism decreased the association of these transporters with LR.
Folic acid is essential for numerous biological functions, ranging from nucleotide biosynthesis to the remethylation of homocysteine. Folic acid is unable to cross the biological membranes by simple diffusion, so there exists a well-developed epithelial folate transport system for the regulation of normal folate homeostasis in the intestine. Any perturbances in the folate uptake system might lead to a state of folate deficiency, which in turn is strongly associated with the risk of various cancers, birth defects and CVD. Countries with obligatory folate fortification of food (USA and Canada) have documented a significant decrease in neural tube defects in newborns. However, the effect of folate oversupplementation on the intestinal absorption of folic acid has not been studied. We studied the process of folate transport and the expression of folate transporters in the rat intestine after folate oversupplementation. Rats were oversupplemented with tenfold the normal requirement of folic acid for periods of 10 and 60 d. Folate uptake in intestinal brush-border membrane vesicles followed saturable kinetics with pH optimum at 5·5. Acute, but not chronic, folate oversupplementation led to a significant down-regulation in intestinal folate uptake at acidic pH optima and was associated with a decrease in Vmax without any significant change in the Km of the folate uptake process. The decrease in folate uptake was also associated with the down-regulation in the protein levels of major folate transporters, proton-coupled folate transporter (PCFT) and reduced folate carrier (RFC), without altering their mRNA levels. Hence, it was concluded that acute folate oversupplementation results in a significant decrease in intestinal folate uptake by down-regulating the expressions of RFC and PCFT, via some post-transcriptional or translational mechanisms.
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