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PubMed 22610344


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Title: Evidence of a rudimentary colon in the elasmobranch, Leucoraja erinacea.

Authors: Nicole Alexandra Theodosiou, Alyssa Simeone

Journal, date & volume: Dev. Genes Evol., 2012 Jul , 222, 237-43

PubMed link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22610344


Abstract
The transition from aquatic to terrestrial life presented tetrapodamorphs with the challenge of maintaining water homeostasis and preventing desiccation on land. The colon evolved in terrestrial vertebrates to help maintain fluid balance. Although marine elasmobranchs lack a colon, their spiral intestine contains a subregion that histologically appears to be colon-like, possibly representing an evolutionary precursor to terrestrial digestive tracts. The distal-most region of the spiral intestine of elasmobranchs has no villi and a large number of acid mucins: hallmarks of water absorption in the colons of terrestrial animals. To determine if histologically distinct regions of the elasmobranch digestive tract correspond to functional differences, we compared water absorption in different subregions of the skate, Leucoraja erinacea digestive tract. Water absorption in stomach and spiral intestinal sacs was linear with time and not hydrostatic pressure-dependent. The histologically distinct distal portion of the spiral intestine had a threefold higher rate of water absorption than the proximal portion of the spiral intestine. In addition, the water-selective, colon-specific aquaporin 4 is expressed strongly in the distal spiral intestine epithelia, correlating with the region of the spiral intestine exhibiting the greatest rate of water absorption. We demonstrate that the distal spiral intestine is histologically and functionally distinct from the rest of the spiral intestine and represents a rudimentary colon within the vertebrate lineage.