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Normalization of Host Intestinal Mucus Layers Requires Long-Term Microbial Colonization

Journal article
Authors Malin E V Johansson
Hedvig E Jakobsson
Jessica Holmén Larsson
André Schütte
Anna Ermund
Ana María Rodríguez-Piñeiro
Liisa Arike
Catharina Wising
Frida Svensson
Fredrik Bäckhed
Gunnar C. Hansson
Published in Cell Host & Microbe
Volume 18
Issue 5
Pages 582-592
ISSN 1931-3128
Publication year 2015
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Institute of Medicine, Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine
Pages 582-592
Language en
Keywords functional cftr channel, gut microbiota, mouse stomach, immune, homeostasis, mucin, bacteria, model, glycosylation, secretion, ecosystem
Subject categories Microbiology


The intestinal mucus layer provides a barrier limiting bacterial contact with the underlying epithelium. Mucus structure is shaped by intestinal location and the microbiota. To understand how commensals modulate gut mucus, we examined mucus properties under germ-free (GF) conditions and during microbial colonization. Although the colon mucus organization of GF mice was similar to that of conventionally raised (Convr) mice, the GF inner mucus layer was penetrable to bacteria-sized beads. During colonization, in which GF mice were gavaged with Convr microbiota, the small intestine mucus required 5 weeks to be normally detached and colonic inner mucus 6 weeks to become impenetrable. The composition of the small intestinal microbiota during colonization was similar to Convr donors until 3 weeks, when Bacteroides increased, Firmicutes decreased, and segmented filamentous bacteria became undetectable. These findings highlight the dynamics of mucus layer development and indicate that studies of mature microbe-mucus interactions should be conducted weeks after colonization.

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