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Inhibition of p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Attenuates Butyrate-Induced Intestinal Barrier Impairment in a Caco-2 Cell Monolayer Model

Huang, Xiao-Zhong*; Li, Zhong-Rong*; Zhu, Li-Bin*; Huang, Hui-Ya; Hou, Long-Long*; Lin, Jing

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: August 2014 - Volume 59 - Issue 2 - p 264–269
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000369
Original Articles: Gastroenterology

Objectives: Butyrate is well known to induce apoptosis in differentiating intestinal epithelial cells. The present study was designed to examine the role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) in butyrate-induced intestinal barrier impairment.

Methods: The intestinal barrier was determined by measuring the transepithelial electrical resistance (TER) in a Caco-2 cell monolayer model. The permeability was determined by measuring transepithelial passage of fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated inulin (inulin-FITC). The morphology of the monolayers was examined with scanning electron microscopy. The apoptosis status was determined by annexin V–FITC labeling and flow cytometry. The activity of p38 MAPK was determined by the phosphorylation status of p38 with Western blotting.

Results: Butyrate at 5 mM increases the apoptosis rate of Caco-2 cells and induces impairment of intestinal barrier functions as determined by decreased TER and increased inulin-FITC permeability. Butyrate treatment activates p38 MAPK in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. SB203580, a specific p38 inhibitor, inhibits butyrate-induced Caco-2 cell apoptosis. Treatment of SB203580 significantly attenuates the butyrate-induced impairment of barrier functions in the Caco-2 cell monolayer model.

Conclusions: p38 MAPK can be activated by butyrate and is involved in the butyrate-induced apoptosis and impairment of intestinal barrier function. Inhibition of p38 MAPK can significantly attenuate butyrate-induced intestinal barrier dysfunction.

*Yuying Children's Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China

Department of Critical Care Medicine, First Affiliated Hospital of Wenzhou Medical University, Wenzhou, China

Kravis Children's Hospital of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Jing Lin, MD, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY (e-mail:,MD(

Received 4 October, 2013

Accepted 1 March, 2014

The present work was supported in part by Zhejiang Provincial Natural Science Foundation (Grant #LY12H04005 and LY13H040011).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition and North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology,