Methods to determine intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation during liver disease

J Immunol Methods. 2015 Jun:421:44-53. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2014.12.015. Epub 2015 Jan 13.


Liver disease is often times associated with increased intestinal permeability. A disruption of the gut barrier allows microbial products and viable bacteria to translocate from the intestinal lumen to extraintestinal organs. The majority of the venous blood from the intestinal tract is drained into the portal circulation, which is part of the dual hepatic blood supply. The liver is therefore the first organ in the body to encounter not only absorbed nutrients, but also gut-derived bacteria and pathogen associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). Chronic exposure to increased levels of PAMPs has been linked to disease progression during early stages and to infectious complications during late stages of liver disease (cirrhosis). It is therefore important to assess and monitor gut barrier dysfunction during hepatic disease. We review methods to assess intestinal barrier disruption and discuss advantages and disadvantages. We will in particular focus on methods that we have used to measure increased intestinal permeability and bacterial translocation in experimental liver disease models.

Keywords: Endotoxin; Gut–liver axis; Intestinal injury; Intestinal leakiness; Microbiome; Microbiota.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Translocation / physiology*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / blood supply
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology
  • Liver Diseases
  • Mice
  • Tight Junctions / pathology*


  • Biomarkers