European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 183–191

Polyunsaturated fatty acids support epithelial barrier integrity and reduce IL-4 mediated permeability in vitro

  • Linette E. M. Willemsen
  • Marleen A. Koetsier
  • Martin Balvers
  • Christopher Beermann
  • Bernd Stahl
  • Eric A. F. van Tol
ORIGINAL CONTRIBUTION

Abstract

Background

The intestinal mucosa functions as a barrier against harmful dietary and microbial antigens. An intact gut barrier forms a prerequisite for protection against infection and allergy. Both allergic and inflammatory mediators (e.g. IL-4, IFN-γ) are known to compromise the epithelial barrier integrity by enhancing permeability. Breast milk provides protection against infection and allergy and contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

Aim of the study

Although PUFA are commonly used in infant formulas their effect on intestinal barrier is still poorly understood. Therefore the effects of distinct PUFA (n-6: LA, GLA, DGLA, AA; n-3: ALA, EPA, DHA) and a fat blend with PUFA composition similar to that of the human breast milk fat fraction, on barrier integrity were investigated.

Methods

Human intestinal epithelial cells (T84) were pre-incubated with individual PUFA or a lipase treated fat blend, with or without subsequent IL-4 exposure. Barrier integrity was evaluated by measuring transepithelial resistance and permeability. Membrane phospholipid composition was determined by capillary gas chromatography.

Results

DGLA, AA, EPA, DHA and to a lesser extend GLA enhanced basal TER and strongly reduced IL-4 mediated permeability, while LA and ALA were ineffective. Furthermore, the lipase treated fat blend effectively supported barrier function. PUFA were incorporated in the membrane phospholipid fraction of T84 cells.

Conclusions

Long chain PUFA DGLA, AA, EPA and DHA were particularly effective in supporting barrier integrity by improving resistance and reducing IL-4 mediated permeability. Fat blends that release specific PUFA upon digestion in the gastrointestinal tract may support natural resistance.

Keywords

permeability IL-4 polyunsaturated fatty acids arachidonic acid (AA) docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) 

Abbreviations

FD4

4 kDa FITC-dextran

IL-4

Interleukin-4

(LC-) PUFA

(Long chain-)polyunsaturated fatty acids

TER

Transepithelial resistance

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Copyright information

© Spinger 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linette E. M. Willemsen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marleen A. Koetsier
    • 1
  • Martin Balvers
    • 1
  • Christopher Beermann
    • 3
  • Bernd Stahl
    • 3
  • Eric A. F. van Tol
    • 1
  1. 1.Danone ResearchCentre for Specialised NutritionWageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Pharmacology and Pathophysiology Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical SciencesUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Danone ResearchCentre for Specialised NutritionFriedrichsdorfGermany

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