Human colonic mucus is a reservoir for antimicrobial peptides

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Background and aims: To prevent bacterial adherence and translocation, the colonic mucosa is covered by a protecting mucus layer and the epithelium synthesizes antimicrobial peptides. The present qualitative study investigated the contents and interaction of these peptides in and with rectal mucus. Methods: Rectal mucus extracts were analyzed for antimicrobial activity and screened with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time-of-flight mass spectrometry, Dot blot and immunohistochemistry for antimicrobial peptides. In addition, binding of AMPs to mucins was investigated by Western blot and enzyme-linked lectin assays. Results: In functional tests the mucus layer exhibited a strong antimicrobial activity. We detected 11 antimicrobial peptides in mucus extracts from healthy persons including the defensins HBD-1 and -3, the cathelicidin LL-37, ubiquitin, lysozyme, histones, high mobility group nucleosome-binding domain-containing protein 2, ubiquicidin and other ribosomal proteins. AMPs were bound by mucins but this was demonstrated to be reversible and inhibition of antibacterial activity was limited. Conclusion: These findings indicate that epithelial antimicrobial peptides are retained in the intestinal mucus layer without losing their efficacy. Thus, the mucus layer and its composition provide an attractive drug target to restore antimicrobial barrier function in intestinal diseases. © 2013 European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation.




Antoni, L., Nuding, S., Weller, D., Gersemann, M., Ott, G., Wehkamp, J., & Stange, E. F. (2013). Human colonic mucus is a reservoir for antimicrobial peptides. Journal of Crohn’s and Colitis, 7(12).

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