Phytohemagglutinin derived from red kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris): A cause for intestinal malabsorption associated with bacterial overgrowth in the rat

J. G. Banwell, D. H. Boldt, J. Meyers, F. L. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Plant lectins or carbohydrate binding proteins interact with membrane receptors on cellular surfaces but their antinutritional effects are poorly defined. Studies were conducted to determine the effects of phytohemaglutinin, a lectin derived from raw red kidney bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), on small intestinal absorptive function and morphology, and on the intestinal microflora. Phytohemagglutinin was isolated in purified form by thyroglobulin-sepharose 4B affinity chromatography. Red kidney bean and Phytohemagglutinin (6% and 0.5%, respectively, of dietary protein) were fed in a purified casein diet to weanling rats for up to 21 days. Weight loss, associated with malabsorption of lipid, nitrogen, and vitamin B12, developed in comparison with animals pair-fed isonitrogenous casein diets. Antinutritional effects of red kidney bean were reversible on reinstitution of a purified casein diet. An increase in bacterial colonization of the jejunum and ileum occurred in red kidney bean- and phytohemagglutinin-fed animals. When antibiotics were included in the diet, malabsorption of [3H]triolein and 57Co-vitamin B12 in red kidney bean-fed animals was partially reversed and, in germ-free animals, purified phytohemagglutinin had no demonstrable antinutritional effect. Mucosal disaccharidase activity was reduced in red kidney bean- and phytohemagglutinin-fed animals, but intestinal mucosal morphology was unchanged. Dietary administration of phytohemagglutinin, alone or as a component of red kidney bean, caused intestinal dysfunction, which was associated with, and dependent upon, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Adherence of enteric bacteria to the mucosal surface was enhanced by phytohemagglutinin which may have facilitated small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)506-515
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1983
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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