Secretion of antimicrobial proteins is an important host defense mechanism against bacteria, yet how secretory cells maintain function during bacterial invasion has been unclear. We discovered that Paneth cells, specialized secretory cells in the small intestine, react to bacterial invasion by rerouting a critical secreted antibacterial protein through a macroautophagy/autophagy-based secretion system termed secretory autophagy. Mice harboring a mutation in an essential autophagy gene, a mutation which is common in Crohn disease patients, cannot reroute their antimicrobial cargo during bacterial invasion and thus have compromised innate immunity. We showed that this alternative secretion system is triggered by both a cell-intrinsic mechanism, involving the ER stress response, and a cell-extrinsic mechanism, involving subepithelial innate immune cells. Our findings uncover a new role for secretory autophagy in host defense and suggest how a mutation in an autophagy gene can predispose individuals to Crohn disease.
Keywords: ATG16L1; Crohn's disease; Salmonella Typhimurium; antimicrobial; autophagy; lysozyme; microbiota; secretion; secretory autophagy; unconventional secretion.