An immature intestinal epithelial barrier may predispose infants and children to many intestinal inflammatory diseases, such as infectious enteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and necrotizing enterocolitis. Understanding the factors that regulate gut barrier maturation may yield insight into strategies to prevent these intestinal diseases. The claudin family of tight junction proteins plays an important role in regulating epithelial paracellular permeability. Previous reports demonstrate that rodent intestinal barrier function matures during the first 3 weeks of life. We show that murine paracellular permeability markedly decreases during postnatal maturation, with the most significant change occurring between 2 and 3 weeks. Here we report for the first time that commensal bacterial colonization induces intestinal barrier function maturation by promoting claudin 3 expression. Neonatal mice raised on antibiotics or lacking the toll-like receptor adaptor protein MyD88 exhibit impaired barrier function and decreased claudin 3 expression. Furthermore, enteral administration of either live or heat-killed preparations of the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG accelerates intestinal barrier maturation and induces claudin 3 expression. However, live Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG increases mortality. Taken together, these results support a vital role for intestinal flora in the maturation of intestinal barrier function. Probiotics may prevent intestinal inflammatory diseases by regulating intestinal tight junction protein expression and barrier function. The use of heat-killed probiotics may provide therapeutic benefit while minimizing adverse effects.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.