Intestinal Goblet Cells and Their Role in Host Defense Against Enteric Bacterial Pathogens

An important role of intestinal goblet cells is to secrete mucus into the gut, which is believed to act as a barrier, preventing contents in the intestine from damaging intestinal tissue. However, researchers have also hypothesized that mucus secretion by goblet cells may also serve as a defense mechanism against bacterial pathogens such as enterohemmorhagic E. coli (EHEC), a bacteria that causes diarrhea and inflammation in humans. Kirk Bergstrom is investigating if, and how, goblet cells may also secrete toxins to combat infecting microbes. With a better understanding of how these cells respond to bacterial pathogens, he hopes his research may lead to new treatment options to combat bacterial diseases of the intestine.