We sought to test the hypothesis that duodenal ulcer disease results from an imbalance between duodenal acid load, an injurious force, and mucosal prostaglandin generation, a protective factor. Ten patients with duodenal ulcer and 8 healthy controls were studied. The duodenal acid load after an amino acid soup was quantified by a double-marker technique. Mucosal biopsy specimens were taken endoscopically from the duodenal bulb before and after the test meal. Prostaglandin synthesis activity was measured by incubating biopsy homogenates in excess [14C]arachidonic acid. Although mean duodenal acid load was higher in duodenal ulcer, ranges overlapped. Neither the qualitative nor quantitative profile of mucosal prostaglandin synthesis activities differed significantly between test groups. Prostaglandin synthesis activities, however, tended to increase post cibum in controls, but change little or decrease in duodenal ulcer. Only by comparing the responses with a meal of both parameters together (duodenal acid load and the change in prostaglandin synthesis activities) was there complete or nearly complete separation of duodenal ulcer from controls. Greatest discrimination was observed with prostacyclin (6-keto-PGF1α). We conclude that in health, mucosal prostaglandin generation in the duodenum is induced post cibum in relation to duodenal acid load; this may be a physiologic example of adaptive cytoprotection. In duodenal ulcer there may be a defect in such a mechanism.
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