JUL 13, 2016 1:15 PM PDT

Sentinel cells keep watch over your gut

WRITTEN BY: Kerry Evans

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg described a new type of cell located in the intestine. These so-called sentinel cells keep an eye out for invading bacteria and sacrifice themselves to protect you. And they say chivalry is dead.

This same group, led by Gunnar C. Hansson, previously showed that the gut produces a layer of mucus to keep the intestinal tissue from coming into direct contact with bacteria.

This protective mucus layer is produced by goblet cells that line the inner surface of the intestine. This surface also contains depressions called crypts - the crypts shelter stem cells that make new intestinal cells.

Credit: Analysis of Proteomic Alterations during Human Colorectal Tumorigenesis by Anuli Uzozie


Sometimes, however, bacteria manage to penetrate the mucus layer. This is when the sentinel cells step up to the plate. According to study author George Birchenough, “these cells are like sentinels guarding the entrance to the crypt. As soon as they discover traces of bacteria in the crypt opening, it starts a chain reaction ending up in a violent mucus explosion that washes away the bacteria”.

Go on, take a moment to clear the image of “violent mucus explosion” from your head.

The group wanted to be sure that the sentinel cells were actually reacting to the presence of bacteria. Indeed, they showed that the cells secreted mucus in response to bacterial TLR ligands such as LPS and flagellin, suggesting that the mucus explosions are a specific response to bacteria.

As if orchestrating a violent mucus explosion isn’t enough, the sentinel cells sacrifice themselves to flush away the invading bacteria. “When the sentinel goblet cell is emptied, it pushes itself out as a catapult”, says Hansson. “If this does not prevent the bacterial attack, and this continues, there are no new sentinels to send forward, thus leaving the crypt open for bacterial invasion and the potential onset of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis”.

Thus, these findings may inform our understanding of inflammatory bowel disease and point towards new treatment strategies - people with inflammatory bowel disease may have less chivalrous sentinel cells, for example.

Sources: Science, Science Daily

About the Author
  • Kerry received a doctorate in microbiology from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
You May Also Like
SEP 21, 2021
Immunology
1 in 5 Hospitalized COVID Patients Develop Self-Destructive Antibodies
SEP 21, 2021
1 in 5 Hospitalized COVID Patients Develop Self-Destructive Antibodies
One in five hospitalized COVID-19 patients go on to develop autoantibodies—immune molecules that mistakenly target ...
SEP 20, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Ribosomes Make Proteins & Now We Know How Ribosomes Are Made
SEP 20, 2021
Ribosomes Make Proteins & Now We Know How Ribosomes Are Made
Proteins are absolutely essential for the survival of organisms; they carry out many functions that are critical to life ...
SEP 30, 2021
Microbiology
Malaria Parasite Seems to be Evolving to Evade Diagnostic Tests
SEP 30, 2021
Malaria Parasite Seems to be Evolving to Evade Diagnostic Tests
When health officials are trying to control a disease outbreak, diagnostic tests can be a crucial tool that provides inf ...
NOV 17, 2021
Microbiology
Large Flu Outbreak at the University of Michigan Draws CDC's Attention
NOV 17, 2021
Large Flu Outbreak at the University of Michigan Draws CDC's Attention
Every year, there is a flu outbreak, and the severity can depend on many factors, like what strain is circulating. Last ...
NOV 30, 2021
Immunology
Sweet Escape: A Sugar Molecule Helps HIV Remain Incognito
NOV 30, 2021
Sweet Escape: A Sugar Molecule Helps HIV Remain Incognito
HIV is a master of disguise. Once the virus enters the body, it has a number of sophisticated mechanisms through which i ...
DEC 02, 2021
Microbiology
Antibodies Seem to Keep Gut Fungi in Check, Except in Crohn's Patients
DEC 02, 2021
Antibodies Seem to Keep Gut Fungi in Check, Except in Crohn's Patients
The bacteria that live in the gut microbiome have gotten a lot of attention, and for good reason; gut bacteria have been ...
Loading Comments...