The main role of the animal gastrointestinal (GI) tract is the selective absorption of dietary nutrients from ingested food sources. One class of vital micronutrients are the essential biometals such as copper, zinc and iron, which participate in a plethora of biological process, acting as enzymatic or structural co-factors for numerous proteins and also as important cellular signalling molecules. To help elucidate the mechanisms by which biometals are absorbed from the diet, we mapped elemental distribution in entire, intact Drosophila larval GI tracts using synchrotron X-ray fluorescence microscopy. Our results revealed distinct regions of the GI tract enriched for specific metals. Copper was found to be concentrated in the copper cell region but also in the region directly anterior to the copper cells and unexpectedly, in the middle midgut/iron cell region as well. Iron was observed exclusively in the iron cell region, confirming previous work with iron-specific histological stains. Zinc was observed throughout the GI tract with an increased accumulation in the posterior midgut region, while manganese was seen to co-localize with calcium specifically in clusters in the distal Malpighian tubules. This work simultaneously reveals distribution of a number of biologically important elements in entire, intact GI tracts. These distributions revealed not only a previously undescribed Ca/Mn co-localization, but also the unexpected presence of additional Cu accumulations in the iron cell region.
- Metal ion absorption
- Gastrointestinal tract
- X-ray fluorescence microscopy