Diet strongly affects gut microbiota composition, and gut bacteria can influence the colonic mucus layer, a physical barrier that separates trillions of gut bacteria from the host. However, the interplay between a Western style diet (WSD), gut microbiota composition, and the intestinal mucus layer is less clear. Here we show that mice fed a WSD have an altered colonic microbiota composition that causes increased penetrability and a reduced growth rate of the inner mucus layer. Both barrier defects can be prevented by transplanting microbiota from chow-fed mice. In addition, we found that administration of Bifidobacterium longum was sufficient to restore mucus growth, whereas administration of the fiber inulin prevented increased mucus penetrability in WSD-fed mice. We hypothesize that the presence of distinct bacteria is crucial for proper mucus function. If confirmed in humans, these findings may help to better understand diseases with an affected mucus layer, such as ulcerative colitis.
Keywords: Bifidobacterium; Western style diet; colon; fiber; goblet cell; microbiota; mucin; mucus.
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