Although inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is the result of a dysregulated immune response to commensal gut bacteria in genetically predisposed individuals, the mechanism(s) by which bacteria lead to the development of IBD are unknown. Interestingly, deletion of intestinal goblet cells protects against intestinal injury, suggesting that this epithelial cell lineage may produce molecules that exacerbate IBD. We previously reported that resistin-like molecule β (RELMβ; also known as FIZZ2) is an intestinal goblet cell-specific protein that is induced upon bacterial colonization whereupon it is expressed in the ileum and colon, regions of the gut most often involved in IBD. Herein, we show that disruption of this gene reduces the severity of colitis in the dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) model of murine colonic injury. Although RELMβ does not alter colonic epithelial proliferation or barrier function, we show that recombinant protein activates macrophages to produce TNF-α both in vitro and in vivo. RELMβ expression is also strongly induced in the terminal ileum of the SAMP1/Fc model of IBD. These results suggest a model whereby the loss of epithelial barrier function by DSS results in the activation of the innate mucosal response by RELMβ located in the lumen, supporting the hypothesis that this protein is a link among goblet cells, commensal bacteria, and the pathogenesis of IBD.
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