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Histochem Cell Biol. 2002 Aug;118(2):149-61. Epub 2002 Jun 27.

Microbial-host interactions specifically control the glycosylation pattern in intestinal mouse mucosa.

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INSERM U538, CHU St-Antoine, 27 rue du Chaligny, 75012 Paris, France.


The glycosylation of the intestinal cell layer is thought to control several key functions of the gut such as vectorial transports, defence against microbial agents or immunological processes. It has been assumed that the gut microflora may modulate the glycosylation pattern of the intestinal cell layer. However, there is no direct evidence for this regulatory process. The first goal of this work was to establish the germ-free mice intestinal glycosylation baseline using a histochemical approach and a panel of ten lectins with defined glycan specificities to tissue sections prepared from various cellular compartments of the small and large intestine. Using this baseline, we have studied the contribution of the gut microflora on the carbohydrate composition of glycoconjugates of intestinal cells by comparing the germ-free and conventional mice glycosylation patterns. Analysis of the germ-free mice intestinal glycosylation baseline revealed that the expression of glycans depends on the proximodistal gradient (small to large intestine) and on the cell lineage (absorptive, goblet, crypt, and Paneth cells), indicating that mice are able to create and maintain a strict topological and cell lineage-specific regulation of glycosyltransferase expression. By comparing germ-free and conventional mice, we find that the gut microflora specifically modulates the gut glycosylation pattern, quantitatively as well as qualitatively by changing the cellular and subcellular distribution of glycans. This is the first report in mice to directly demonstrate the critical contribution of microflora to intestinal glycosylation, a key characteristic of the gut.

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