DALLAS Oct. 19, 2011 The intestinal ecosystem is even more dynamic than previously thought, according to two studies by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers published in the latest issue of Science.
Taken together, these studies provide a new understanding of the unique intestinal environment and suggest new strategies for the prevention of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and viral infections, the researchers said.
"Mammals have evolved ways to limit invasion by the naturally occurring bacteria that live in their intestines even as viruses have developed strategies to break through those defenses and cause infection," said Dr. Julie Pfeiffer, assistant professor of microbiology.
Dr. Pfeiffer is senior author of a new study that finds that, even after 100 years, the polio virus has tricks to reveal. It is well known that after oral ingestion and passage through the intestine, poliovirus can move throughout the body and occasionally cause paralysis. Her team showed that the virus uses the body's natural gut bacteria in order to become more infectious.
In the other study, senior author Dr. Lora Hooper, associate professor of immunology and microbiology and an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), reported that an antibiotic protein called RegIIIγ acts like a sentry to keep the 100 trillion bacteria that live in the gut from causing digestive havoc, by maintaining a "demilitarized zone" in the layer of mucus that normally covers the inner surface of the intestines.
Bacteria in the intestine normally work to help the body digest and deliver nutrients from food after eating. A 50-micron zone of separation, about half the width of a human hair, lies between the bacteria that live in the gut and the intestinal wall. In addition to mucous, that zone contains biologically active molecules like the protein RegIIIγ that Dr. Hooper's laboratory discovered in 2006.
|Contact: Debbie Bolles|
UT Southwestern Medical Center