PhD defence

Metabolism of the Challenged Intestinal Epithelial Cell


The intestinal tract is a complex organ that is vital for maintaining organismal health. It transports essential nutrients and minerals that are needed to sustain all bodily functions, while keeping out unwanted environmental agents and compounds. To maintain these functions, intestinal cells need to produce sufficient energy. An inability to produce enough cellular energy could result in suboptimal intestinal function and ultimately gastrointestinal diseases. As gastrointestinal diseases are prevalent in both humans and animals, it is important to better understand whether altered cellular energy metabolism could result in increased susceptibility to disease. In this research, we therefore investigated how intestinal cellular metabolism adapts when challenged, and how altered metabolism was linked to intestinal functioning. To do this, we applied two nutritional interventions, constituting challenges to the intestine, that are relevant for both human and animal nutritional: diet and fasting. We found that intestinal cellular metabolism indeed changed as a result of these nutritional interventions. The fasting intervention also showed that a reduction in intestinal cell metabolism is associated with reduced intestinal cell division and reduced expression of genes related to barrier function, which indeed points to increased susceptibility to intestinal disease.