The Food Additive Maltodextrin Promotes Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-Driven Mucus Depletion and Exacerbates Intestinal Inflammation

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;7(2):457-473. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2018.09.002. Epub 2018 Sep 11.


Background & aims: Food additives, such as emulsifiers, stabilizers, or bulking agents, are present in the Western diet and their consumption is increasing. However, little is known about their potential effects on intestinal homeostasis. In this study we examined the effect of some of these food additives on gut inflammation.

Methods: Mice were given drinking water containing maltodextrin (MDX), propylene glycol, or animal gelatin, and then challenged with dextran sulfate sodium or indomethacin. In parallel, mice fed a MDX-enriched diet were given the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress inhibitor tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA). Transcriptomic analysis, real-time polymerase chain reaction, mucin-2 expression, phosphorylated p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase quantification, and H&E staining was performed on colonic tissues. Mucosa-associated microbiota composition was characterized by 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing. For the in vitro experiments, murine intestinal crypts and the human mucus-secreting HT29-methotrexate treated cell line were stimulated with MDX in the presence or absence of TUDCA or a p38 MAP kinase inhibitor.

Results: Diets enriched in MDX, but not propylene glycol or animal gelatin, exacerbated intestinal inflammation in both models. Analysis of the mechanisms underlying the detrimental effect of MDX showed up-regulation of inositol requiring protein 1β, a sensor of ER stress, in goblet cells, and a reduction of mucin-2 expression with no significant change in mucosa-associated microbiota. Stimulation of murine intestinal crypts and HT29-methotrexate treated cell line cells with MDX induced inositol requiring protein 1β via a p38 MAP kinase-dependent mechanism. Treatment of mice with TUDCA prevented mucin-2 depletion and attenuated colitis in MDX-fed mice.

Conclusions: MDX increases ER stress in gut epithelial cells with the downstream effect of reducing mucus production and enhancing colitis susceptibility.

Keywords: Colitis; IBD; Intestinal Epithelium; Unfolded Protein Response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Colitis / microbiology
  • Colitis / pathology
  • Diet
  • Disease Progression*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Food Additives / adverse effects*
  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome
  • Inflammation / microbiology
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • Polysaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Swine
  • Unfolded Protein Response / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism


  • Food Additives
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • maltodextrin
  • Ern2 protein, mouse
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases