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Interactions Between Intestinal Microbiota and Innate Immune System in Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Cucchiara, Salvatore MD, PhD*; Stronati, Laura PhD; Aloi, Marina MD, PhD*

Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology: October 2012 - Volume 46 - Issue - p S64–S66
doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31826a857f

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the result of an altered immune homeostasis within the intestinal mucosa against the gut microbiota, leading to chronic inflammation in genetically predisposed individuals. Under normal conditions, the immune system defends against pathogens and prevents the passage of excessive intestinal bacteria; regulatory pathways must maintain a low-grade, controlled inflammation in a healthy gut, but also induce a protective response against pathogens. The innate immune system is the first-line defense from microbes; dendritic cells, macrophages, and epithelial cells produce an initial, immediate response. The immune system constantly controls commensal bacteria and utilizes constitutive antimicrobial mechanisms to sustain immune homeostasis. The discovery that several genes linked to IBD modulate microbial recognition and innate immune pathways, such as nucleotide oligomerization domain 2 (Nod2), and genes that mediate autophagy (ie, ATG16L1, IRGM), has highlighted the critical role of host-microbe interactions in controlling intestinal immune homeostasis. Commensal microorganisms actively interact with the intestinal mucosa and influence the activity of the immune system as well as the amplitude of the immune response. In contrast, host factors can influence microbes, which in turn modulate disease susceptibility. In this paper, we focus on the mechanisms that mediate host-microbe interactions and how the disruption of this balance leads to chronic intestinal inflammation in IBD.

*Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Liver Unit, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome

Section of Toxicology and Biomedical Sciences, Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), Italy

The authors declare that they have nothing to disclose.

Reprints: Salvatore Cucchiara, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, Pediatric Gastroenterology and Liver Unit, Sapienza University of Rome, Viale Regina Elena 324, Rome 00161, Italy (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.