This publication describes his work as a PhD student in the Host-Microbe Interactomics Chair group at Wageningen University within the Gastrointestinal Health theme. It has been completed under the supervision of Prof. Dr Jerry M Wells, Dr Jan Dekker and the TIFN project leader, Prof. Dr Paul de Vos.
Mucus serves as a protective layer between the intestinal content and the intestinal wall. It facilitates the passage of the luminal content through the intestine, reducing the risk of mechanical damage to the intestinal epithelium. The overarching goal of this thesis was to investigate the role of mucus in the maintenance of the intestinal immune barrier and the effects of ageing and gender differences on mucus production and the gut barrier.
We found by using a mouse model that decreased mucus production leads to changes in microbiota and mucosal stress responses, without the appearance of pathology, demonstrating the importance of mucus in intestinal homeostasis. The mucus barrier was shown to deteriorate during aging but this could be prevented with specific probiotics. Furthermore gender-specific differences in the effects of ageing on the mucosal barrier were found. Increased knowledge on these mechanisms might contribute significantly to disease prevention and treatment, for instance by optimizing gender-specific dietary and pharmacological requirements.
The study presented in this thesis was performed within the framework of Top Institute Food and Nutrition, within the GH002 project.