Fine-tuning of host cell responses to commensal bacteria plays a crucial role in maintaining homeostasis of the gut. Here, we show that tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor (Traf)2(-/-) mice spontaneously developed severe colitis and succumbed within 3 weeks after birth. Histological analysis revealed that apoptosis of colonic epithelial cells was enhanced, and B cells diffusely infiltrated into the submucosal layer of the colon of Traf2(-/-) mice. Expression of proinflammatory cytokines, including Tnfa, Il17a, and Ifng, was up-regulated, whereas expression of antimicrobial peptides was down-regulated in the colon of Traf2(-/-) mice. Moreover, a number of IL-17-producing helper T cells were increased in the colonic lamina propria of Traf2(-/-) mice. These cellular alterations resulted in drastic changes in the colonic microbiota of Traf2(-/-) mice compared with Traf2(+/+) mice. Treatment of Traf2(-/-) mice with antibiotics ameliorated colitis along with down-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines and prolonged survival, suggesting that the altered colonic microbiota might contribute to exacerbation of colitis. Finally, deletion of Tnfr1, but not Il17a, dramatically ameliorated colitis in Traf2(-/-) mice by preventing apoptosis of colonic epithelial cells, down-regulation of proinflammatory cytokines, and restoration of wild-type commensal bacteria. Together, TRAF2 plays a crucial role in controlling homeostasis of the colon.
© 2011 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.