The Intestine Integrity The role and importance of tight junctions The intestine allows the absorption of nutrients, while also functioning as a barrier, which prevents antigens and pathogenic bacteria to enter the mucosal tissue, and causing diseases. Increased intestinal permeability (= reduced barrier function) is implicated in autoimmune, inflammatory and atopic diseases.
Chronic inflammatory diseases are characterized by a leaky intestinal barrier. Entry of unwanted antigens can lead to ‘systematic inflammatory response syndrome’, characterized by a whole body inflammatory state, and multiple organ failure.
The space between epithelial cells is ‘sealed’ by tight junction proteins, a multi-functional complex which regulates the permeability of the intestinal barrier. Tight junctions are composed of trans-membrane components (proteins) that mediate adhesion and form the paracellular diffusion barrier.
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