Published online Feb 7, 2014. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v20.i5.1165
Revised: November 8, 2013
Accepted: December 12, 2013
Published online: February 7, 2014
A complex mucosal barrier protects as the first line of defense the surface of the healthy intestinal tract from adhesion and invasion by luminal microorganisms. In this review, we provide an overview about the major components of this protective system as for example an intact epithelium, the synthesis of various antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and the formation of the mucus layer. We highlight the crucial importance of their correct functioning for the maintenance of a proper intestinal function and the prevention of dysbiosis and disease. Barrier disturbances including a defective production of AMPs, alterations in thickness or composition of the intestinal mucus layer, alterations of pattern-recognition receptors, defects in the process of autophagy as well as unresolved endoplasmic reticulum stress result in an inadequate host protection and are thought to play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of the inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Core tip: An efficient intestinal mucosal barrier is critical for protection against invading microorganisms, therefore impairments in this system have serious adverse effects on health. In patients suffering from the inflammatory bowel diseases Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the intestinal barrier function is compromised at different levels including, amongst others, a defective production of antimicrobial peptides, alterations of the mucus layer and defects in the process of autophagy. In this article, we outline important components of the healthy intestinal mucosal barrier and review their disturbances in inflammatory bowel disease.