How gut bacteria stick around to help keep us healthy

Lactobacillus reuteri in mucus (Image by Alistair Walsham)

Lactobacillus reuteri in mucus (Image by Alistair Walsham)

Nathalie Juge and her group have found the first evidence for the structural mechanisms bacteria use to attach themselves to the mucus layer that lines our gut.

Understanding the role that the gut microbiota plays in maintaining our health needs a full understanding of exactly how these bacteria bind to their hosts. In particular, there is much interest in how bacteria proteins called adhesins associate with proteins in the mucus layer.

The new findings provide the first structural and functional characterisation of this interaction. These features give the first clues of exactly what determines how the interactions cross mucus, and where in the gastrointestinal tract specific bacteria are able to establish, and so maintain their populations.

There is a growing body of evidence that how well we maintain these populations has significant effects on our health. Disturbance in the balance of these populations, known as dysbiosis, are thought to be involved in conditions such as colitis, colorectal cancer and in infections. These findings may help in the  development of strategies to prevent or even reverse dysbiosis as well as better understand the complex relationship we have with our gut bacteria.

Read Nathalie Juge’s article on this study on the GHFS blog

Reference: Structural basis for adaptation of lactobacilli to gastrointestinal mucus. Etzold S, Kober OI, Mackenzie DA, Tailford LE, Gunning AP, Walshaw J, Hemmings AM, Juge N.  Environ Microbiol. 2013 Dec 25. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.12377

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