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Cell Physiol Biochem. 2016;38(6):2464-78. doi: 10.1159/000445597. Epub 2016 Jun 17.

The Role of Probiotics in Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Autophagy in Intestinal Epithelial Cells.



Dysfunction of autophagy has been associated with loss of intestinal homeostasis. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) from Gram-negative bacteria is known to be a major initiator of intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) autophagy. Although probiotics have been recognized to be involved in many therapeutic properties and participate in host defense responses, the molecular mechanisms by which probiotics exert these positive effects remain unknown. This study assessed the effect of probiotics on LPS-induced physical barrier dysfunction and the underlying mechanism of probiotic action in IECs with a focus on autophagy.


A LPS-induced autophagic model was established in rat IEC18 cells wherein cells were treated with culture medium supernatants of Bifidobacteria following LPS intervention at indicated times. Autophagosomes in IEC18 cells were visualized by confocal microscopy after transfection with a tandem GFP-mCherry-LC3 construct and also by transmission electron microscopy. Autophagy-associated protein levels were analyzed by western blot and transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) was measured using an epithelial voltohmmeter.


Probiotic treatment could effectively inhibit LPS-induced autophagy, as evidenced by the decreased ratio of microtubule-associated light chain 3 (LC3)-II/LC3-I, fewer autophagic vacuoles, and reduced punctate distribution of GFP-mCherry-LC3. In addition, probiotics prevented chloroquine (CQ) inhibition of autophagic flux and autophagolysosomal fusion as indicated by a failure to recruit LAMP1 and cathepsin D to lysosomes. Interestingly, ATG16L1 knockdown did not inhibit the effect of probiotics on LPS-induced autophagy. Furthermore, the diminished barrier function could be prevented by probiotics.


We provide evidence that autophagy mediation by probiotics may be involved in enteroprotection against LPS-induced intestinal epithelial toxicity, and could serve as a novel mechanism through which probiotics promote and maintain gut homeostasis.

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