Intestinal mucins in colonization and host defense against pathogens.

View More View Less
  • 1 Institute of Parasitology, McGill University, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec, Canada.

Intestinal mucins are key components of the first line of host defense against intestinal pathogens. These large glycoconjugates secreted by specialized exocrine goblet cells form viscous gels that trap microorganisms and irritants and limit their diffusion to the intestinal epithelium. Moreover, they allow for colonization by indigenous bacterial flora that prevents attachment of pathogenic microbes. The interaction between microbes and mucins involves mucin carbohydrate side chains and microbial adhesin molecules. Certain microorganisms and disease states may alter mucin biochemistry or expression. Although these alterations most likely contribute to disease processes, the full impact of these phenomena are still unclear. The development of mucin-secreting cell lines has facilitated the study of mucin biology and aided our understanding of mucin-microbial interactions.