The gastrointestinal tract is the largest immune interface with the environment. Exposure to large numbers of dietary and microbial antigens requires complex and highly regulated immune responses by different mucosal cell types, which result in the induction and maintenance of intestinal homeostasis. Defects in this equilibrium can disrupt the homeostatic mechanisms and lead to chronic intestinal inflammation. We review the cell populations and mechanisms involved in the control of intestinal homeostasis and inflammation, focusing on inflammatory bowel diseases. We describe some aspects of gut immunity that could alter the delicate balance between inflammatory and tolerogenic responses and result in chronic gastrointestinal tract inflammation in patients.
Copyright © 2011 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.