The effect of various cytoprotective agents on the thickness of gastric mucus gel layer in rats was studied. It was hypothesized that an increase in the mucus gel layer might be involved in cytoprotection. The results show that this is not the case. Neither prostaglandin E2, 16,16-dimethyl prostaglandin E2, nor mild irritants (20% ethanol, 0.35 M HCl, 20% glucose, 20% mannitol), all given orally, altered the thickness of the mucus gel layer, although these agents were found to be cytoprotective, i.e., inhibiting the formation of gastric mucosal necrotic lesions caused by oral administration of absolute ethanol. The only agents that significantly increased the thickness of the mucus gel layer were a hypertonic solution (4% NaCl) and sodium salicylate. We conclude that if mucus plays a role in cytoprotection, it is not by virtue of an increase in the thickness of the gel layer adherent to the gastric mucosa.
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