Role of mucus in intestinal barrier

The intestinal mucus layer has a critical role in human gut health and human health in general. Mucus facilitates the passage of the luminal content through the intestine, reducing the risk of mechanical damage to the intestinal epithelium. Furthermore, mucus provides a suitable environment to beneficial commensal bacteria that provide valuable nutrients through metabolising complex compounds, and by inducing balanced or homeostatic host immune responses. Nonetheless, much is still unknown about the properties and intricate functioning of the intestinal mucus layers.

This project aims to provide knowledge on the role of the mucus intestinal barrier and immune sampling. We are investigating the role of mucus in intestinal homeostasis using a mucus-deficient mouse model: a Muc2 knockout mouse that develops colitis, an inflammatory condition, in absence of secretory mucus. We are also studying structure of the intestinal mucus layer and its relevance to immune sampling. To this goal, we use specific histological and immuno-histochemistry methods to visualize the mucus layer and investigate its physicochemical properties including thickness and permeability. The knowledge that we gain in this study and the developed methods are used to determine novel probiotics and prebiotic fibres that are able to modify the mucus layer and beneficially change immune sampling.

This work is supported by the Top Institute Food and Nutrition.