Interactions Between Bacteria and the Gut Mucosa: Do Enteric Neurotransmitters Acting on the Mucosal Epithelium Influence Intestinal Colonization or Infection?

  • Benedict T. Green
  • David R. Brown


The intestinal epithelium is a critical barrier between the internal and external milieux of the mammalian host. Epithelial interactions between these two host environments have been shown to be modulated by several different, cross-communicating cell types residing in the gut mucosa. These include enteric neurons, whose activity is influenced by bacterial pathogens, and their secreted products. Neurotransmitters appear to influence epithelial associations with bacteria in the intestinal lumen. For example, internalization of Salmonella enterica and Escherichia coli O157:H7 into the Peyer’s patch mucosa of the small intestine is altered after the inhibition of neural activity with saxitoxin, a neuronal sodium channel blocker. Catecholamine neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, also alter bacterial internalization in Peyer’s patches. In the large intestine, norepinephrine increases the mucosal adherence of E. coli. These neurotransmitter actions are mediated by well-defined catecholamine receptors situated on the basolateral membranes of epithelial cells rather than through direct interactions with luminal bacteria. Investigations of the involvement of neuroepithelial communication in the regulation of interactions between the intestinal mucosa and luminal bacteria will provide novel insights into the mechanisms underlying bacterial colonization and pathogenesis at mucosal surfaces.


Intestinal Mucosa Biogenic Amine Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide Enteric Nervous System Enteric Neuron 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer-Verlag New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.United States Department of AgricultureResearch Pharmacologist, Agricultural Research ServiceLoganUSA
  2. 2.Department of Veterinary and Biomedical SciencesUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

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