Intestinal barrier: A gentlemen's agreement between microbiota and immunity

World J Gastrointest Pathophysiol. 2014 Feb 15;5(1):18-32. doi: 10.4291/wjgp.v5.i1.18.


Our body is colonized by more than a hundred trillion commensals, represented by viruses, bacteria and fungi. This complex interaction has shown that the microbiome system contributes to the host's adaptation to its environment, providing genes and functionality that give flexibility of diet and modulate the immune system in order not to reject these symbionts. In the intestine, specifically, the microbiota helps developing organ structures, participates of the metabolism of nutrients and induces immunity. Certain components of the microbiota have been shown to trigger inflammatory responses, whereas others, anti-inflammatory responses. The diversity and the composition of the microbiota, thus, play a key role in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis and explain partially the link between intestinal microbiota changes and gut-related disorders in humans. Tight junction proteins are key molecules for determination of the paracellular permeability. In the context of intestinal inflammatory diseases, the intestinal barrier is compromised, and decreased expression and differential distribution of tight junction proteins is observed. It is still unclear what is the nature of the luminal or mucosal factors that affect the tight junction proteins function, but the modulation of the immune cells found in the intestinal lamina propria is hypothesized as having a role in this modulation. In this review, we provide an overview of the current understanding of the interaction of the gut microbiota with the immune system in the development and maintenance of the intestinal barrier.

Keywords: Immune system; Intestinal barrier; Lamina propria; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Review