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Identified molecular link between gut bacteria and intestinal health

The development and severity of inflammatory bowel diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions can be influenced by host genetic and environmental factors, including signals derived from commensal bacteria1, 2, 3, 4, 56. However, the mechanisms that integrate these diverse cues remain undefined. 
Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) discovered that the enzyme HDAC3 as a key mediator in maintaining proper intestinal integrity and function in the presence of friendly bacteria. They demonstrated that mice with an intestinal epithelial cell (IEC)-specific deletion of the epigenome-modifying enzyme histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3ΔIEC mice) exhibited extensive dysregulation of IEC-intrinsic gene expression, including decreased basal expression of genes associated with antimicrobial defence. Critically, conventionally housed HDAC3ΔIEC mice demonstrated loss of Paneth cells, impaired IEC function and alterations in the composition of intestinal commensal bacteria. In addition, HDAC3ΔIEC mice showed significantly increased susceptibility to intestinal damage and inflammation, indicating that epithelial expression of HDAC3 has a central role in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. Re-derivation of HDAC3ΔIEC mice into germ-free conditions revealed that dysregulated IEC gene expression, Paneth cell homeostasis and intestinal barrier function were largely restored in the absence of commensal bacteria.
Although the specific mechanisms through which IEC-intrinsic HDAC3 expression regulates these complex phenotypes remain to be determined, these data indicate that HDAC3 is a critical factor that integrates commensal-bacteria-derived signals to calibrate epithelial cell responses required to establish normal host–commensal relationships and maintain intestinal homeostasis.
This research was published on Nature.

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