Absorption of small water-soluble nutrients in vertebrate intestines occurs both by specific, mediated transport and by non-specific, passive, paracellular transport. Although it is apparent that paracellular absorption represents a significant route for nutrient absorption in many birds and mammals, especially small, flying species, its importance in ectothermic vertebrates has not previously been explored. Therefore, we measured fractional absorption (ƒ) and absorption rate of three paracellular probes (arabinose, l-rhamnose, cellobiose) and of 3-O-methyl d-glucose (absorbed by both mediated and paracellular pathways) by the large herbivorous lizard, Uromastyx aegyptia, to explore the relative importance of paracellular and mediated transport in an ectothermic, terrestrial vertebrate. Fractional absorption of 3-O-methyl d-glucose was high (ƒ = 0.73±0.04) and similar to other vertebrates; ƒ of the paracellular probes was relatively low (arabinose ƒ = 0.31±0.03, l-rhamnose ƒ = 0.19±0.02, and cellobiose ƒ = 0.14±0.02), and decreased with molecular mass, a pattern consistent with other vertebrates. Paracellular absorption accounted for approximately 24% of total 3-O-methyl d-glucose uptake, indicating low reliance on this pathway for these herbivorous lizards, a pattern similar to that found in other terrestrial vertebrates, and different from small flying endotherms (both birds and bats).
McWhorter, T., Pinshow, B., Karasov, W., & Tracy, C. (2013). Paracellular Absorption Is Relatively Low in the Herbivorous Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard, Uromastyx aegyptia. PLoS One, 8(4), 1-9. [e61869]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0061869