Innate immune defenses in the intestinal tract

Sara M. Dann, Lars Eckmann

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Innate intestinal defenses are important for protection against ingested and commensal microbes. This review highlights recent new insights into innate immune effectors in the intestine. RECENT FINDINGS: Intestinal epithelial cells, particularly Paneth cells, are the major producers of multiple peptides and proteins with antimicrobial activity in the intestine. The most abundant and diverse of these are the defensins. They are highly microbicidal in vitro and probably important in vivo, yet their physiologic functions remain incompletely understood. Relative defensin deficiency may be a risk factor for Crohn's disease and infectious diarrhea. Cathelicidin contributes to mucosal defense against epithelial-adherent bacterial pathogens, and helps to set a threshold for productive infection. Bactericidal/ permeability-inducing protein has lipopolysaccharide-neutralizing capacity and kills bacteria when overexpressed in epithelial cells. Resistin-like molecule β is important in mucosal defense against helminths due to its ability to inhibit worm chemotaxis. Antimicrobial lectins, particularly hepatocarcinoma-intestine-pancreas/pancreatic-associated protein, RegIII, and intelectin, can lyse bacteria or interfere with their attachment to epithelial cells. SUMMARY: Discovery of an expanding set of antimicrobial effectors supports the evolutionary importance of innate intestinal defenses against microbial threats, but also underlines the physiologic and pharmacologic need for a better understanding of the respective functions of these molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Gastroenterology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Innate immunity
  • Intestine
  • Microbial pathogenesis
  • Mucosal immunology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


Dive into the research topics of 'Innate immune defenses in the intestinal tract'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this