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Science 334 (6053): 182-183

Copyright © 2011 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keeping Bacteria at a Distance

Malin E.V. Johansson, and Gunnar C. Hansson

The human intestine harbors enormous amounts of bacteria that have an essential role in host metabolism, but how this mutualistic balance is maintained is unclear. The current understanding has focused on the concept that bacteria continuously interact with the intestinal immune system in a balanced proinflammatory and tolerogenic way. The discovery of a protective inner mucus layer in the colon that separates bacteria from the epithelium has broadened this view (1). On page 255 of this issue, Vaishnava et al. (2) show that the antibacterial protein RegIII{gamma} secreted by specialized epithelial cells is involved in limiting the epithelial contact with bacteria in the small intestine. This observation further substantiates the role of intestinal epithelial cells and the mucus that covers them as important parts of the innate immune defense.

Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.

E-mail: gunnar.hansson{at}

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Bacteria penetrate the normally impenetrable inner colon mucus layer in both murine colitis models and patients with ulcerative colitis.
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Altered Innate Defenses in the Neonatal Gastrointestinal Tract in Response to Colonization by Neuropathogenic Escherichia coli.
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Infect. Immun. 81, 3264-3275
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Studies of mucus in mouse stomach, small intestine, and colon. I. Gastrointestinal mucus layers have different properties depending on location as well as over the Peyer's patches.
A. Ermund, A. Schutte, M. E. V. Johansson, J. K. Gustafsson, and G. C. Hansson (2013)
Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 305, G341-G347
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
Regulation of intestinal microbiota by the NLR protein family.
A. Biswas and K. S. Kobayashi (2013)
Int. Immunol. 25, 207-214
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »
The goblet cell: a key player in ischaemia-reperfusion injury.
M. E. V. Johansson and G. C. Hansson (2013)
Gut 62, 188-189
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Perspectives on Mucus Properties and Formation--Lessons from the Biochemical World.
D. Ambort, M. E. V. Johansson, J. K. Gustafsson, A. Ermund, and G. C. Hansson (2012)
Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med 2, a014159
   Abstract »    Full Text »    PDF »

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