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Mucosal Immunol. 2015 Nov;8(6):1360-72. doi: 10.1038/mi.2015.27. Epub 2015 Apr 29.

Colonic MUC2 mucin regulates the expression and antimicrobial activity of β-defensin 2.

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Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Gastrointestinal Research Group, Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


In this study we identified mechanisms at the colonic mucosa by which MUC2 mucin regulated the production of β-defensin in a proinflammatory milieu but functionally protected susceptible bacteria from its antimicrobial effects. The regulator role of MUC2 on production of β-defensin 2 in combination with the proinflammatory cytokine interleukin-1β (IL-1β) was confirmed using purified human colonic MUC2 mucin and colonic goblet cells short hairpin RNA (shRNA) silenced for MUC2. In vivo, Muc2(-/-) mice showed impaired β-defensin mRNA expression and peptide localization in the colon as compared with Muc2(+/-) and Muc2(+/+) littermates. Importantly, purified MUC2 mucin abrogated the antimicrobial activity of β-defensin 2 against nonpathogenic and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli. Sodium metaperiodate oxidation of MUC2 removed the capacity of MUC2 to stimulate β-defensin production and MUC2's inhibition of defensin antimicrobial activity. This study highlights that a defective MUC2 mucin barrier, typical in inflammatory bowel diseases, may lead to deficient stimulation of β-defensin 2 and an unbalanced microbiota that favor the growth of β-defensin-resistant microbes such as Clostridium difficile.

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