Just like our skin, our intestinal (gut) epithelium is the barrier between us and the outside world. A compromised barrier integrity is associated with diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, but also obesity. Maintaining a healthy epithelial barrier is therefore key to disease prevention. A healthy barrier is the result of an intricate balance between our gut microbiota and our immune system. One of the major immune players involved in controlling intestinal barrier function is the cytokine interleukin (IL)-22, via its broad and not completely understood roles, linking immunity, microbiota and metabolism. In my project, I will use the unique characteristics of the zebrafish model to unravel the role of IL-22 signaling in the gut in different stages of development during healthy and inflammatory conditions, where possible in vivo. In this way, we will obtain much needed fundamental understanding of the role of the IL-22 signaling pathway in relation to gut health. Discovering more about the functions of IL-22 in our gut is needed before targeted strategies to strengthen barrier function, prevent microbial dysbiosis and/or regulate epithelial metabolism can be developed.
My direct project supervisors are dr. Sylvia Brugman at Host Microbe Interactomics and dr. Vincent de Boer at Human Animal and Physiology.