Acute experimental stress evokes a differential gender-determined increase in human intestinal macromolecular permeability

C. Alonso, M. Guilarte, M. Vicario, L. Ramos, S. Rezzi, C. Martínez, B. Lobo, F. P. Martin, M. Pigrau, A. M. González-Castro, M. Gallart, J. R. Malagelada, F. Azpiroz, S. Kochhar, J. Santos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background Intestinal epithelial dysfunction is a common pathophysiologic feature in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients and might be the link to its clinical manifestations. We previously showed that chronic psychosocial stress induces jejunal epithelial barrier dysfunction; however, whether this epithelial response is gender-specific and might thus explain the enhanced female susceptibility to IBS remains unknown. Methods Intestinal responses to acute stress were compared in age-matched groups of healthy women and men (n=10 each) experiencing low background stress. A 20-cm jejunal segment, was perfused with an isosmotic solution, and intestinal effluents were collected under basal conditions, for 15min during cold pain stress and for a 45-min recovery period. Epithelial function (net water flux and albumin output), changes in stress hormones, and cardiovascular and psychologic responses to cold stress were measured. Key Results Heart rate and blood pressure significantly increased during cold pain stress with no differences between men and women. Adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels during cold pain stress were significantly higher in men. Basal net water flux and epithelial permeability were similar in men and women. Cold pain stress increased water flux in both groups (72±23 and 107±18μLmin-1cm-1, respectively; F(5, 90)=5.5; P=0.003 for Time) and, interestingly, this was associated with a marked increase of albumin permeability in women but not in men (0.8±0.2 vs.-0.7±0.2mg/15min; P<0.0001). Conclusions & Inferences Intestinal macromolecular permeability in response to acute experimental stress is increased in healthy women, a mechanism that may contribute to female oversusceptibility to IBS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute stress
  • Barrier defect
  • Epithelial response
  • Functional diseases
  • Gender
  • Intestinal inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Acute experimental stress evokes a differential gender-determined increase in human intestinal macromolecular permeability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this