MLCK-mediated intestinal permeability promotes immune activation and visceral hypersensitivity in PI-IBS mice

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Alterations in intestinal permeability regulated by tight junctions (TJs) are associated with immune activation and visceral hypersensitivity in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Myosin light chain kinase (MLCK) is an important mediator of epithelial TJ. The aim of this study is to investigate the role of MLCK in the pathogenesis of IBS using a post infectious IBS (PI-IBS) mouse model.


Trichinella spiralis-infected PI-IBS mouse model was used. Urine lactulose/mannitol ratio was measured to assess intestinal epithelial permeability. Western blotting was used to evaluate intestinal TJ protein (zonula occludens-1) and MLCK-associated protein expressions. Immune profile was assessed by measuring Th (T helper) 1/Th2 cytokine expression. Visceral sensitivity was determined by abdominal withdrawal reflex in response to colorectal distension.


Eight weeks after inoculation with T. spiralis, PI-IBS mice developed decreased pain and volume thresholds during colorectal distention, increased urine lactulose/mannitol ratio, elevated colonic Th1/Th2 cytokine ratio, and decreased zonula occludens-1 expression compared to the control mice. MLCK expression was dramatically elevated in the colonic mucosa of PI-IBS mice compared to the control mice, alongside increased pMLC/MLC and decreased MLCP expression. Administration of MLCK inhibitor and TJ blocker both reversed the increased intestinal permeability, visceral hypersensitivity, and Th1-dominant immune profile in PI-IBS mice.


MLCK is a pivotal step in inducing increased intestinal permeability promoting low-grade intestinal immune activation and visceral hypersensitivity in PI-IBS mice. MLCK inhibitor may provide a potential therapeutic option in the treatment of IBS.

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