Autophagy Process Essential for Normal Intestinal Defense Against Bacteria, Study Finds

Autophagy Process Essential for Normal Intestinal Defense Against Bacteria, Study Finds
Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that a cellular mechanism called autophagy is an important participant in the protection of mouse intestines from inflammation triggered by invading bacteria. These findings were featured in a study titled “Paneth cells secrete lysozyme via secretory autophagy during bacterial infection of the intestine,” published in the journal Science. "This is the first example of this alternative pathway [autophagy] being used in immune defense in any kind of animal," Dr. Lora Hooper, chair of immunology at UT Southwestern, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and senior author of the study, said in a news release. Autophagy is a process commonly involved in the destruction of unwanted or potentially harmful components in cells. Previous studies showed that mutations affecting a gene involved in the autophagic pathway known as ATG16L1 was a common feature in patients with Crohn's disease. However, until now it was not fully understood how autophagy could contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease. The research team, led by Dr. Lora Hooper, investigated what happened in mice genetically engineered to carry ATG16L1 mutations similar to those described in Crohn's patients when exposed to Salmonella bacteria carried by food. They found that the mice bearing the mutations were unable to defend the intestines from the harmful bacteria. Indeed, the cells lining the intestines could not produc
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