A complex mucosal barrier protects as the first line of defense the surface of the healthy intestinal tract from adhesion and invasion by luminal microorganisms. In this review, we provide an overview about the major components of this protective system as for example an intact epithelium, the synthesis of various antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and the formation of the mucus layer. We highlight the crucial importance of their correct functioning for the maintenance of a proper intestinal function and the prevention of dysbiosis and disease. Barrier disturbances including a defective production of AMPs, alterations in thickness or composition of the intestinal mucus layer, alterations of pattern-recognition receptors, defects in the process of autophagy as well as unresolved endoplasmic reticulum stress result in an inadequate host protection and are thought to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of the inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Keywords: Antimicrobial peptide; Crohn’s disease; Goblet cell; Inflammatory bowel disease; Intestinal barrier; Mucus layer; Paneth cell; Ulcerative colitis.