Background: PepT1, an intestinal epithelial apical di/tripeptide transporter, is normally expressed in the small intestine and induced in colon during chronic inflammation. This study aimed at investigating PepT1 regulation by butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid produced by commensal bacteria and accumulated inside inflamed colonocyte.
Results: We found that butyrate treatment of human intestinal epithelial Caco2-BBE cells increased human PepT1 (hPepT1) promoter activity in a dose- and time-dependent manner, with maximal activity observed in cells treated with 5 mM butyrate for 24 h. Under this condition, hPepT1 promoter activity, mRNA and protein expression levels were increased as assessed by luciferase assay, real-time RT-PCR and Western blot, respectively. hPepT1 transport activity was accordingly increased by approximately 2.5-fold. Butyrate did not alter hPepT1 mRNA half-life indicating that butyrate acts at the transcriptional level. Molecular analyses revealed that Cdx2 is the most important transcription factor for butyrate-induced increase of hPepT1 expression and activity in Caco2-BBE cells. Butyrate-activated Cdx2 binding to hPepT1 promoter was confirmed by gel shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation. Moreover, Caco2-BBE cells overexpressing Cdx2 exhibited greater hPepT1 expression level than wild-type cells. Finally, treatment of mice with 5 mM butyrate added to drinking water for 24 h increased colonic PepT1 mRNA and protein expression levels, as well as enhanced PepT1 transport activity in colonic apical membranes vesicles.
Conclusions: Collectively, our results demonstrate that butyrate increases PepT1 expression and activity in colonic epithelial cells, which provides a new understanding of PepT1 regulation during chronic inflammation.