‘Fine tuning’ certain cells may prevent gut inflammation, researchers find

Keeping the intestinal tract in balance requires a delicate dialogue between gut microbes and the body. When that gets disrupted, inflammation and intestinal damage can result.

New findings by University of Florida Health researchers and their collaborators show how certain cells in the colon can be “fine-tuned” by chemically attaching a sugar molecule to a protein. That is crucial for developing prebiotics — non-digestible food ingredients that promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and protect against intestinal pathogens.

The findings by Mansour Mohamadzadeh, Ph.D., a professor in the UF colleges of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, and his collaborators were published recently in the journal Mucosal Immunology. Mohamadzadeh is also a member of the UF Health Cancer Center.

The molecular “fine-tuning,” known as glycosylation, has the potential to prevent inflammation and the progression of intestinal diseases such as colitis, the researchers said. To establish their findings, the researchers showed that the molecular mechanism for “fine-tuning” a prebiotic known as propionibacterium directs intestinal equilibrium to potentially protect against inflammatory signals that can lead to colon tissue damage.

Better understanding the bacterial gene products that can keep gut bacteria in a healthy balance may also pave the way for new therapies to treat inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer, the researchers said.

Collaborators from the University of Georgia and Emory University School of Medicine contributed to the research, which was funded by National Institutes of Health grants.

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Doug Bennett's picture

Doug Bennett

Science Writer, Editor

Doug Bennett joined the UF Health staff in January 2015 as a science writer and editor. His topic areas include anatomy; biochemistry and molecular biology; molecular genetics and microbiology; pathology,...Read More