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Study identifies mechanism by which intestinal enzyme maintains microbial balance
Date:5/9/2014

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have identified the mechanism by which an enzyme produced in the intestinal lining helps to maintain a healthy population of gastrointestinal microbes. In their report in American Journal of Physiology Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, the research team describes finding that intestinal alkaline phosphatase (IAP) promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria by blocking the growth-inhibiting action of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) an action first described in this paper within the intestine.

"We found that ATP is a natural inhibitor of bacteria in our intestines and that IAP promotes the growth of 'good' bacteria by blocking ATP," says Richard Hodin, MD, of the MGH Department of Surgery, senior author of the report which has been released online. "By helping to keep these healthy bacteria happy, IAP protects us against dangerous pathogens that can get the upper hand when the balance is disrupted."

The beneficial bacteria and other microbes that normally populate the human digestive system contribute to the digestive process and also prevent the proliferation of any disease-causing bacteria that may be present. A drop in the number of beneficial species which may be caused by antibiotic treatment, poor nutrition or other health conditions can allow the population of harmful bacteria to rise, contributing to serious medical problems including chronic diarrhea from pathogenic species such as C. difficile, inflammatory bowel disease, and metabolic syndrome.

Previous research by Hodin's team found that IAP keeps pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract from passing through the intestinal wall, and a 2010 study in mice revealed that the enzyme plays an important role in maintaining levels of beneficial bacteria, including restoring levels reduced by antibiotic treatment. However, that study also showed that IAP does not directly promote bacterial growth, leavi
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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