Research Article

Mucus Enhances Gut Homeostasis and Oral Tolerance by Delivering Immunoregulatory Signals

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Science  26 Sep 2013:
DOI: 10.1126/science.1237910

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A dense mucous layer in the large intestine prevents inflammation by shielding the underlying epithelium from luminal bacteria and food antigens. This mucous barrier is organized around the hyperglycosylated mucin MUC2. Here, we show that the small intestine has a porous mucous layer, which permitted the uptake of MUC2 by antigen-sampling dendritic cells (DCs). Glycans associated with MUC2 imprinted DCs with anti-inflammatory properties by assembling a galectin-3-Dectin-1-FcγRIIB receptor complex that activated β-catenin. This transcription factor interfered with DC expression of inflammatory but not tolerogenic cytokines by inhibiting gene transcription through nuclear factor–κB. MUC2 induced additional DC-conditioning signals via intestinal epithelial cells. Thus, mucus does not merely form a nonspecific physical barrier, but also constraints the immunogenicity of gut antigens by delivering tolerogenic signals.

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