The gastrointestinal tract is home to trillions of bacteria and the interaction between bacteria and our immune system has received much attention. Yet, we know little about the barrier function of absorptive epithelial cells, also called enterocytes, that line the intestine and physically separate bacteria from immune cells within the lamina propria.
Long, extended glycoproteins called membrane mucins build up a dense glycocalyx on luminal surfaces of enterocytes. Here, at the interface between the host and the outer environment, membrane mucins reach 1 micrometer into the microbe-rich gut lumen, farther than any other known membrane protein. Consequently, membrane mucins are ideally positioned to function as epithelial barriers and to participate in host-microbe interactions.
Our research group is part of Mucin Biology Groups at the University of Gothenburg. We are one of few research labs in the world who study the function and regulation of membrane mucins in defending our gastrointestinal tract.
Our aim is to elucidate the function of membrane mucins in intestinal barriers and to determine how we can harness membrane mucins to combat diseases such as Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and endemic intestinal infections.
Our research is funded by Swedish Society for Medical Research, Mucosal Immunology Studies Team/NIH (USA), Wenner-Gren Foundations and the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg.