The activities of various glycosidases in homogenates of the small-intestinal mucosa of one adult and two suckling echidnas, Tachyglossus aculeatus, were investigated. The activities of lactase (beta-D-galactosidase), beta-N-acetylglucosaminidase, neuraminidase and alpha-L-fucosidase were higher in the sucklings than in the adult animal. Maltase and isomaltase activities were lower. Sucrase and cellobiase activities were absent or present in trace amounts only. The lactase activity had a pH optimum of 4.0-4.5, was predominantly in the soluble fraction following ultracentrifugation and was inhibited by p-chloromercuribenzene sulfonate, suggesting that it was due to a lysosomal acid beta-galactosidase and not a brush-border neutral lactase. The maltase activity of the sucklings also had the characteristics predominantly of a lysosomal acid hydrolase. It is proposed that in suckling echidnas, the oligosaccharides (mainly neuraminyllactose and fucosyllactose) of the mother's milk are digested intracellularly by lysosomal enzymes, rather than at the brush border, of the epithelial cells of the small-intestinal mucosa.
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