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Muc2 protects against lethal infectious colitis by disassociating pathogenic and commensal bacteria from the colonic mucosa

Kirk S B Bergstrom, Vanessa Kissoon-Singh, Deanna L Gibson, Caixia Ma, Marinieve Montero, Ho Pan Sham, Natasha Ryz, Tina Huang, Anna Velcich, B Brett Finlay, Kris Chadee, Bruce A Vallance
PLoS Pathogens 2010, 6 (5): e1000902
20485566
Despite recent advances in our understanding of the pathogenesis of attaching and effacing (A/E) Escherichia coli infections, the mechanisms by which the host defends against these microbes are unclear. The goal of this study was to determine the role of goblet cell-derived Muc2, the major intestinal secretory mucin and primary component of the mucus layer, in host protection against A/E pathogens. To assess the role of Muc2 during A/E bacterial infections, we inoculated Muc2 deficient (Muc2(-/-)) mice with Citrobacter rodentium, a murine A/E pathogen related to diarrheagenic A/E E. coli. Unlike wildtype (WT) mice, infected Muc2(-/-) mice exhibited rapid weight loss and suffered up to 90% mortality. Stool plating demonstrated 10-100 fold greater C. rodentium burdens in Muc2(-/-) vs. WT mice, most of which were found to be loosely adherent to the colonic mucosa. Histology of Muc2(-/-) mice revealed ulceration in the colon amid focal bacterial microcolonies. Metabolic labeling of secreted mucins in the large intestine demonstrated that mucin secretion was markedly increased in WT mice during infection compared to uninfected controls, suggesting that the host uses increased mucin release to flush pathogens from the mucosal surface. Muc2 also impacted host-commensal interactions during infection, as FISH analysis revealed C. rodentium microcolonies contained numerous commensal microbes, which was not observed in WT mice. Orally administered FITC-Dextran and FISH staining showed significantly worsened intestinal barrier disruption in Muc2(-/-) vs. WT mice, with overt pathogen and commensal translocation into the Muc2(-/-) colonic mucosa. Interestingly, commensal depletion enhanced C. rodentium colonization of Muc2(-/-) mice, although colonic pathology was not significantly altered. In conclusion, Muc2 production is critical for host protection during A/E bacterial infections, by limiting overall pathogen and commensal numbers associated with the colonic mucosal surface. Such actions limit tissue damage and translocation of pathogenic and commensal bacteria across the epithelium.

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