The fecal excretion of total nitrogen and of total hexosamines has been determined in germfree and conventional rats. Germfree rats excreted more hexosamines than the conventional rats, while no difference in the nitrogen excretion was found. Infection of the germfree rats with a normal flora resulted in a temporarily increased excretion of hexosamines and nitrogen over a period of 2 to 3 days after which they reached the level of the conventional animals.
The contents of the germfree cecum contained 65 to 137 mg of hexosamines and 57 to 127 mg of nitrogen as compared to 1.2 to 5.3 and 7.4 to 23 mg in conventional animals. The high figures for hexosamines were due to an increase in the total amount of contents in the cecum and to a fivefold increase in the concentration of hexosamine-containing material.
Studies on the distribution of hexosamine-containing cecal contents between sediment and supernatant after centrifugation at 20,000 g for 2 hours demonstrated that 5 to 10 per cent of the hexosamines occurred in the sediment in the germfree rats, while 75 to 85 per cent was found in this fraction in the conventional rats. The soluble part of the cecal contents in germfree as well as in the conventional rats contained 70 per cent of hexosamines in molecules with a molecular weight above approximatively 100,000 as found by gel filtration experiments on sephadex gels.
The higher weight of the germfree cecal wall was reflected in a high total amount of nitrogen and hexosamines.
Isolated strains of bacteria capable of reducing the cecal size in vivo did not show any capacity to degrade the mucus in vitro in a test system, where a full intestinal flora was highly active.