Muc5ac expression protects the colonic barrier in experimental colitis

Kristine E. Olli, Caroline Rapp, Lauren O. Connell, Colm B. Collins, Eoin N. McNamee, Owen Jensen, Paul Jedlicka, Kristen C. Allison, Matthew S. Goldberg, Mark E. Gerich, Daniel N. Frank, Diana Ir, Charles E. Robertson, Christopher M. Evans, Carol M. Aherne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: The mucus gel layer (MGL) lining the colon is integral to exclusion of bacteria and maintaining intestinal homeostasis in health and disease. Some MGL defects allowing bacteria to directly contact the colonic surface are commonly observed in ulcerative colitis (UC). The major macromolecular component of the colonic MGL is the secreted gel-forming mucin MUC2, whose expression is essential for homeostasis in health. In UC, another gel-forming mucin, MUC5AC, is induced. In mice, Muc5ac is protective during intestinal helminth infection. Here we tested the expression and functional role of MUC5AC/Muc5ac in UC biopsies and murine colitis. Methods: We measured MUC5AC/Muc5ac expression in UC biopsies and in dextran sulfate sodium (DSS) colitis. We performed DSS colitis in mice deficient in Muc5ac (Muc5ac-/-) to model the potential functional role of Muc5ac in colitis. To assess MGL integrity, we quantified bacterialepithelial interaction and translocation to mesenteric lymph nodes. Antibiotic treatment and 16S rRNA gene sequencing were performed to directly investigate the role of bacteria in murine colitis. Results: Colonic MUC5AC/Muc5ac mRNA expression increased significantly in active UC and murine colitis. Muc5ac-/-mice experienced worsened injury and inflammation in DSS colitis compared with control mice. This result was associated with increased bacterial-epithelial contact and translocation to the mesenteric lymph nodes. However, no change in microbial abundance or community composition was noted. Antibiotic treatment normalized colitis severity in Muc5ac-/-mice to that of antibiotic-Treated control mice.Conclusions: MUC5AC/Muc5ac induction in the acutely inflamed colon controls injury by reducing bacterial breach of the MGL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1353-1367
Number of pages15
JournalInflammatory Bowel Diseases
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • bacteria
  • epithelium
  • mucin
  • ulcerative colitis


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