Oxygen metabolism and barrier regulation in the intestinal mucosa

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Mucosal surfaces are lined by epithelial cells and provide an important barrier to the flux of antigens from the outside. This barrier is provided at a number of levels, including epithelial junctional complexes, mucus production, and mucosa-derived antimicrobials. Tissue metabolism is central to the maintenance of homeostasis in the mucosa. In the intestine, for example, baseline pO2 levels are uniquely low due to counter-current blood flow and the presence of large numbers of bacteria. As such, hypoxia and HIF signaling predominates normal intestinal metabolism and barrier regulation during both homeostasis and active inflammation. Contributing factors that elicit important adaptive responses within the mucosa include the transcriptional regulation of tight junction proteins, metabolic regulation of barrier components, and changes in autophagic flux. Here, we review recent literature around the topic of hypoxia and barrier function in health and during disease.

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