Bifidobacterium breve reduces apoptotic epithelial cell shedding in an exopolysaccharide and MyD88-dependent manner

K. R. Hughes, L. C. Harnisch, C. Alcon-Giner, S. Mitra, C. J. Wright, J. Ketskemety, D. Van Sinderen, A. J.M. Watson, L. J. Hall

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52 Scopus citations


Certain members of the microbiota genus Bifidobacterium are known to positively influence host well-being. Importantly, reduced bifidobacterial levels are associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients, who also have impaired epithelial barrier function, including elevated rates of apoptotic extrusion of small intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) from villi-a process termed 'cell shedding'. Using a mouse model of pathological cell shedding, we show that mice receiving Bifidobacterium breve UCC2003 exhibit significantly reduced rates of small IEC shedding. Bifidobacterial-induced protection appears to be mediated by a specific bifidobacterial surface exopolysaccharide and interactions with host MyD88 resulting in downregulation of intrinsic and extrinsic apoptotic responses to protect epithelial cells under highly inflammatory conditions. Our results reveal an important and previously undescribed role for B. breve, in positively modulating epithelial cell shedding outcomes via bacterial- and host-dependent factors, supporting the notion that manipulation of the microbiota affects intestinal disease outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number160155
JournalOpen Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bifidobacterium
  • Epithelial cell shedding
  • Exopolysaccharide
  • Inflammatory bowel disease


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