Microbial influences on epithelial integrity and immune function as a basis for inflammatory diseases

Immunol Rev. 2012 Jan;245(1):164-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2011.01080.x.


Certain autoimmune diseases as well as asthma have increased in recent decades, particularly in developed countries. The hygiene hypothesis has been the prevailing model to account for this increase; however, epidemiology studies also support the contribution of diet and obesity to inflammatory diseases. Diet affects the composition of the gut microbiota, and recent studies have identified various molecules and mechanisms that connect diet, the gut microbiota, and immune responses. Herein, we discuss the effects of microbial metabolites, such as short chain fatty acids, on epithelial integrity as well as immune cell function. We propose that dysbiosis contributes to compromised epithelial integrity and disrupted immune tolerance. In addition, dietary molecules affect the function of immune cells directly, particularly through lipid G-protein coupled receptors such as GPR43.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Bacterial Infections / complications
  • Bacterial Infections / immunology*
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Diet
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Fatty Acids / immunology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / etiology
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Immune System Diseases / microbiology
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled