Host-microbiota interactions in the intestine

Academic Article


  • The comprehensive collection of bacterial species, termed microbiota, within human and other mammalian hosts has profound effects on both innate and adaptive immunity. Multiple host innate mechanisms contribute to intestinal homeostasis, including epithelial production of protective mucin layers maintaining spatial segregation in the intestine as well as epithelial cell secretion of a broad range of antimicrobial peptides. Additionally, epithelial cells employ autophagy to contain and eliminate invading bacteria; interestingly, genetic variants in specific autophagy genes are linked to susceptibility to Crohn's disease. Innate lymphoid cells, which rapidly respond to cytokine and microbial signals, have emerged as important regulators of the intestinal immune response to the microbiota. With regard to adaptive immunity, specific microbial species stimulate induction of regulatory T cells while others induce effector T cells within the gut. Such stimulation is subject to dysregulation during inflammation and disease, contributing to 'dysbiosis' or an abnormal microbiota composition that has been associated with a variety of immune-mediated inflammatory disorders, including celiac disease. The microbiota communicates with the immune system and vice versa; thus, an abnormal microbiota composition likely translates into an altered host immune response, though the exact mechanisms of such are not yet clear. Immunoglobulin A plays a critical role in limiting bacterial access to the host and in maintaining mutualism with the microbiota. Perturbation of the mucosal barrier via infection or other means can induce effector T cells reactive to the intestinal microbiota, and these cells can persist as memory cells for extended periods of time and potentially serve as pathogenic effector cells upon re-encounter with antigen. Health is associated with a diverse microbiota that functions to maintain the balance between T effector and T regulatory cells in the intestine. Whether dysbiosis can be reversed in immune-mediated disease, thus restoring health, is a question of intense interest for this active area of research.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Elson CO; Alexander KL
  • Start Page

  • 131
  • End Page

  • 136
  • Volume

  • 33
  • Issue

  • 2