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Defective intestinal tight junction (TJ) barrier is a hallmark in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To date, there are no effective therapies that specifically target the intestinal TJ barrier. Among the various probiotic bacteria, Bifidobacterium, is one of the most widely studied to have beneficial effects on the intestinal TJ barrier. The main purpose of this study was to identify Bifidobacterium species that cause a sustained enhancement in the intestinal epithelial TJ barrier and can be used therapeutically to target the intestinal TJ barrier and to protect against or treat intestinal inflammation. Our results showed that Bifidobacterium bifidum caused a marked, sustained enhancement in the intestinal TJ barrier in Caco-2 monolayers. The Bifidobacterium bifidum effect on TJ barrier was strain-specific, and only the strain designated as BB1 caused a maximal enhancement in TJ barrier function. The mechanism of BB1 enhancement of intestinal TJ barrier required live bacterial cell/enterocyte interaction and was mediated by the BB1 attachment to Toll-like receptor-2 (TLR-2) at the apical membrane surface. The BB1 enhancement of the intestinal epithelial TJ barrier function was mediated by the activation of the p38 kinase pathway, but not the NF-κB signaling pathway. Moreover, the BB1 caused a marked enhancement in mouse intestinal TJ barrier in a TLR-2-dependent manner and protected against dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced increase in mouse colonic permeability, and treated the DSS-induced colitis in a TJ barrier-dependent manner. These studies show that probiotic bacteria BB1 causes a strain-specific enhancement of the intestinal TJ barrier through a novel mechanism involving BB1 attachment to the enterocyte TLR-2 receptor complex and activation of p38 kinase pathway.

Keywords: Bifidobacterium; intestinal barrier; toll-like receptor-2.

Research Insights

SupplementHealth OutcomeEffect TypeEffect Size
Bifidobacterium bifidum BB01Enhanced Intestinal Barrier FunctionBeneficial
Bifidobacterium bifidum BB01Reduced Intestinal InflammationBeneficial

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