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Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Jul;16(7):1138-48. doi: 10.1002/ibd.21177.

Enhanced translocation of bacteria across metabolically stressed epithelia is reduced by butyrate.

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  • 1Gastrointestinal Research Group, Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute of Infection, Inflammation and Immunology, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.



The gut microflora in some patients with Crohn's disease can be reduced in numbers of butyrate-producing bacteria and this could result in metabolic stress in the colonocytes. Thus, we hypothesized that the short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, is important in the maintenance and regulation of the barrier function of the colonic epithelium.


Confluent monolayers of the human colon-derived T84 or HT-29 epithelial cell lines were exposed to dinitrophenol (DNP (0.1 mM), uncouples oxidative phosphorylation) + Escherichia coli (strain HB101, 10(6) cfu) +/- butyrate (3-50 mM). Transepithelial resistance (TER), and bacterial internalization and translocation were assessed over a 24-hour period. Epithelial ultrastructure was assessed by transmission electron microscopy.


Epithelia under metabolic stress display decreased TER and increased numbers of pseudopodia that is consistent with increased internalization and translocation of the E. coli. Butyrate (but not acetate) significantly reduced the bacterial translocation across DNP-treated epithelia but did not ameliorate the drop in TER in the DNP+E. coli exposed monolayers. Inhibition of bacterial transcytosis across metabolically stressed epithelia was associated with reduced I-kappaB phosphorylation and hence NF-kappaB activation.


Reduced butyrate-producing bacteria could result in increased epithelial permeability particularly in the context of concomitant exposure to another stimulus that reduces mitochondria function. We speculate that prebiotics, the substrate for butyrate synthesis, is a valuable prophylaxis in the regulation of epithelial permeability and could be of benefit in preventing relapses in IBD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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