Maintenance of intestinal homeostasis by mucosal barriers

Inflamm Regen. 2018 Apr 2:38:5. doi: 10.1186/s41232-018-0063-z. eCollection 2018.


Background: The intestine is inhabited by a tremendous number of microorganisms, which provide many benefits to nutrition, metabolism and immunity. Mucosal barriers by intestinal epithelial cells make it possible to maintain the symbiotic relationship between the gut microbiota and the host by separating them. Recent evidence indicates that mucosal barrier dysfunction contributes to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In this review, we focus on the mechanisms by which mucosal barriers maintain gut homeostasis.

Main text: Gut mucosal barriers are classified into chemical and physical barriers. Chemical barriers, including antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), are chemical agents that attack invading microorganisms, and physical barriers, including the mucus layer and the cell junction, are walls that physically repel invading microorganisms. These barriers, which are ingeniously modulated by gut microbiota and host immune cells, spatially segregate gut microbiota and the host immunity to avoid unnecessary immune responses to gut commensal microbes. Therefore, mucosal barrier dysfunction allows gut bacteria to invade gut mucosa, inducing excessive immune responses of the host immune cells, which result in intestinal inflammation.

Conclusion: Gut mucosal barriers constructed by intestinal epithelial cells maintain gut homeostasis by segregating gut microbiota and host immune cells. Impaired mucosal barrier function contributes to the development of IBD. However, the mechanism by which the mucosal barrier is regulated by gut microbiota remains unclear. Thus, it should be further elucidated in the future to develop a novel therapeutic approach to IBD by targeting the mucosal barrier.

Keywords: Gut microbiota; Inflammatory bowel disease; Intestinal epithelial cells; Mucosal barrier.

Publication types

  • Review