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Cell Microbiol. 2015 Nov;17(11):1561-9. doi: 10.1111/cmi.12501. Epub 2015 Sep 15.

The intestinal epithelium as guardian of gut barrier integrity.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, University Hospital RWTH Aachen, Aachen, Germany.


A single layer of epithelial cells separates the intestinal lumen from the underlying sterile tissue. It is exposed to a multitude of nutrients and a large number of commensal bacteria. Although the presence of commensal bacteria significantly contributes to nutrient digestion, vitamin synthesis and tissue maturation, their high number represents a permanent challenge to the integrity of the epithelial surface keeping the local immune system constantly on alert. In addition, the intestinal mucosa is challenged by a variety of enteropathogenic microorganisms. In both circumstances, the epithelium actively contributes to maintaining host-microbial homeostasis and antimicrobial host defence. It deploys a variety of mechanisms to restrict the presence of commensal bacteria to the intestinal lumen and to prevent translocation of commensal and pathogenic microorganisms to the underlying tissue. Enteropathogenic microorganisms in turn have learnt to evade the host's immune system and circumvent the antimicrobial host response. In the present article, we review recent advances that illustrate the intense and intimate host-microbial interaction at the epithelial level and improve our understanding of the mechanisms that maintain the integrity of the intestinal epithelial barrier.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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