To investigate the effect of estrogen deficiency on the small intestinal mucosal barrier induced by fluoride (F), F exposure models of ovariectomy (OVX) rats (surgically removed ovaries) and non-OVX rats (normal condition) were established by adding sodium fluoride (NaF) (0, 25, 50, and 100 mg/L, calculated by F ion) in drinking water for 90 days. The intestinal mucosal histomorphology, mucosal barrier function, and protein expression levels of tight junctions (TJs), adhesion junctions (AJs), and desmosomes were evaluated in the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum. Hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining and 5-Bromo-2-deoxyUridine (BrdU) measurement showed that excessive F-induced damage to intestinal epithelial cells and inhibited the proliferation of intestinal epithelial cells, eventually decreasing the number of goblet cells and decreasing glycoprotein secretion, as indicated by Alcian blue and periodic acid-Schiff (AB-PAS) and periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) staining. Further immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated that excessive F decreased the protein expression levels of occludin, zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), E-cadherin, and desmoplakin (P < 0.05, P < 0.01) and enhanced the expression of claudin-2 (P < 0.01), suggesting that cell-to-cell junctions were disrupted. Collectively, F exposure impaired the small intestinal mucosal barrier by inducing damage to intestinal epithelial cells and inhibiting intestinal epithelial cell proliferation. Disorders in the junctional complex protein expression blocked the synergy between intercellular communication and aggravated mucosal injury. In particular, estrogen deficiency exacerbated F-induced enterotoxicity, which provides new explanations for the development and severity of intestinal disease in postmenopausal women with high-F areas.
Fluoride damaged intestinal epithelial cells.
Fluoride inhibited intestinal epithelial cells proliferation.
Fluoride disrupted expression of junctional complexes proteins.
Fluoride reduced glycoproteins secretion.
Estrogen deficiency exacerbated fluoride-induced enterotoxicity.
*Original full-text article online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0147651322010211?via%3Dihub