Research highlight

Maintaining calm in the gut

Nature Immunology

February 21, 2011

The interplay between intestinal immune cells and gut microbes protects the intestine and prevents excessive tissue damage due to inflammatory immune responses, reports a study published online this week in Nature Immunology.

Although we are born with a sterile gut, beneficial bacteria and other microbes soon colonize, which necessitates a symbiotic relationship with these gut inhabitants. Gerard Eberl and colleagues show newborn or germ-free mice have innate immune cells that express abundant amounts of the immune molecule IL-22 in their gut. IL-22 induces the production of antimicrobial substances by cells lining the gut, a process that is blocked upon bacterial colonization by the production of another immune molecule, IL-25.

Intestinal damage, as can occur upon infection with gut pathogens or ingestion of toxic chemicals, activates IL-22 expression and production of antimicrobial proteins and speeds recovery to a ‘calm’ gut.

doi: 10.1038/ni.2002

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