The barrier and beyond: Roles of intestinal mucus and mucin-type O-glycosylation in resistance and tolerance defense strategies guiding host-microbe symbiosis

Gut Microbes. 2022 Jan-Dec;14(1):2052699. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2022.2052699.


Over the past two decades, our appreciation of the gut mucus has moved from a static lubricant to a dynamic and essential component of the gut ecosystem that not only mediates the interface between host tissues and vast microbiota, but regulates how this ecosystem functions to promote mutualistic symbioses and protect from microbe-driven diseases. By delving into the complex chemistry and biology of the mucus, combined with innovative in vivo and ex vivo approaches, recent studies have revealed novel insights into the formation and function of the mucus system, the O-glycans that make up this system, and how they mediate two major host-defense strategies - resistance and tolerance - to reduce damage caused by indigenous microbes and opportunistic pathogens. This current review summarizes these findings by highlighting the emerging roles of mucus and mucin-type O-glycans in influencing host and microbial physiology with an emphasis on host defense strategies against bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.

Keywords: Mucin-type O-glycans; colon; disease tolerance; host-defense; microbiota; mucus.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Microbiome*
  • Glycosylation
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology
  • Microbiota*
  • Mucins / metabolism
  • Mucus / metabolism
  • Symbiosis


  • Mucins