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Curr Opin Gastroenterol. 2012 Mar;28(2):124-9. doi: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e3283506559.

Innate immunity in the small intestine.

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Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA.



This article reviews the most recent publications on innate immunity in the small intestine. We will go over the innate immune receptors that act as sensors of microbial presence or cell injury, Paneth cells as the main epithelial cell type that secrete antimicrobial peptides, and mucosal production of immunoglobulin A (IgA). In addition, we will give an update on examples of imbalance of the innate immune response resulting in clinical disease with the most relevant example being Crohn's disease.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are involved in B-cell homing to the intestine, rejection of small intestinal allografts, and recruitment of mast cells. The TLR adaptor Toll/interleukin-1 receptor domain-containing adapter-inducing interferon-╬▓ is necessary to activate innate immunity after Yersinia enterocolitica infection. Moreover, MyD88 is required to keep the intestinal microbiota under control and physically separated from the epithelium, and RegIII╬│ is responsible for the bacterial segregation from the lining epithelial cells. In Crohn's disease, ATG16L1 T300A variant promotes a proinflammatory response; and miR-196 downregulates a protective immunity-related GTPase family M protein (IRGM) polymorphism leading to impaired clearance of adherent Escherichia coli in the intestine.


The intestine is continuously exposed to dietary and microbial antigens. The host has to maintain intestinal homeostasis to keep the commensal and pathogenic bacteria under control. Some of the mechanisms to do so are by expression of innate immune receptors, production of antimicrobial peptides, secretion of IgA, or autophagy of intracellular bacteria. Unfortunately, in some cases the innate immune response fails to protect the host and chronic inflammation, transplant rejection, or other disorders may occur.

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