Intestinal epithelial cells as mediators of the commensal-host immune crosstalk

Immunol Cell Biol. 2013 Mar;91(3):204-14. doi: 10.1038/icb.2012.80. Epub 2013 Jan 15.


Commensal bacteria regulate the homeostasis of host effector immune cell subsets. The mechanisms involved in this commensal-host crosstalk are not well understood. Intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) not only create a physical barrier between the commensals and immune cells in host tissues, but also facilitate interactions between them. Perturbations of epithelial homeostasis or function lead to the development of intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and intestinal cancer. IECs receive signals from commensals and produce effector immune molecules. IECs also affect the function of immune cells in the lamina propria. Here we discuss some of these properties of IECs that define them as innate immune cells. We focus on how IECs may integrate and transmit signals from individual commensal bacteria to mucosal innate and adaptive immune cells for the establishment of the unique mucosal immunological equilibrium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / immunology*
  • Bacterial Physiological Phenomena / immunology*
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / microbiology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / microbiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa* / microbiology
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / immunology
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / microbiology
  • Intestines* / immunology
  • Intestines* / microbiology