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Springer Semin Immunopathol. 2005 Sep;27(2):133-46. Epub 2005 Jun 2.

Paneth cell alpha-defensins: peptide mediators of innate immunity in the small intestine.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, College of Health Sciences, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697-4800, USA.


Epithelial cells contribute to innate immunity by releasing antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) onto mucosal surfaces. In the small bowel, Paneth cells at the base of the crypts of Lieberk├╝hn secrete alpha-defensins and additional AMPs at high levels in response to cholinergic stimulation and when exposed to bacterial antigens. The release of Paneth cell products into the crypt lumen is inferred to protect mitotically active crypt cells that renew the epithelial cell monolayer from colonization by potentially pathogenic microbes and to confer protection from enteric infection. The most compelling evidence for a Paneth cell role in enteric resistance to infection is evident from studies of mice transgenic for a human Paneth cell alpha-defensin, HD-5, which are completely immune to infection and systemic disease from orally administered Salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium. Cystic fibrosis mice are subject to small bowel bacterial overgrowth that is associated with impaired dissolution of released Paneth cell granules in the crypt lumen. Mutations that cause defects in the activation, secretion, dissolution, and bactericidal effects of Paneth cell AMPs may alter crypt innate immunity and contribute to immunopathology.

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