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Curr Opin Microbiol. 2003 Feb;6(1):77-81.

The use of transepithelial models to examine host-pathogen interactions.

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Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Division of Mucosal Immunology, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School CNY, 114 16th Street (114-3503), Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Many pathogens must overcome an epithelial barrier in order to establish an infection. Unsurprisingly, such pathogens have evolved different mechanisms to overcome this obstacle, targeting specific epithelial structures or functions. These include disruption of epithelial barrier function, transcytosing from the apical to the basolateral membrane domain or inducing cell movement such as neutrophil recruitment. When studying these processes in vivo, animal models often fail to mimic the disease observed in humans and present a complex system in which many variables cannot be controlled. Therefore, in vitro transepithelial models that permit the study of a relevant biological surface have been developed, to integrate not only interactions between bacteria and epithelial cells but also, under certain conditions, to integrate a third cell type, such as neutrophils or dendritic cells. Such models are particularly useful for studying the bacteria-host relationship as it would occur in the microenvironment of the human epithelium and have enhanced our understanding of the unique strategies by which pathogenic bacteria exploit host cells to overcome the initial epithelial hurdle.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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