, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 449-461

The intestinal epithelial cell: immunological aspects

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IECs likely play an important role in immunological defense mechanism. Apart from being a passive barrier against luminal bacteria, IECs secrete protective and microbiocidal products such as ITF, complement components and cryptdins into the lumen. Moreover, IECs produce secretory component that is essential for the transport of IgA from the lamina propria into the lumen. IECs also have regulatory functions. They express adhesion molecules important in the homing of T cells and other leukocytes, and likely modulate T cell functions in a paracrine way. Furthermore, IECs secrete cytokines, either constitutively or after bacterial challenge, and they express cytokine receptors. Lastly, IECs may play an important role as non-professional antigen-presenting cells by expressing classical MHC class I and class II and non-classical MHC class I molecules on the cell surface. This aspect is particularly intriguing in that IECs also express a FcR that may have a function in luminal antigen sampling.