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Teamwork in the intestine: Gut bacteria interact with intestine to regulate blood supply

St. Louis, Nov. 4, 2002 -- Bacteria aren't always bad. In fact, they can be extremely helpful partners. According to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, microbes found naturally in the mouse and human gut interact with intestinal cells, called Paneth cells, to promote the development of blood vessels in the intestinal lining.

"This study provides insights into the mutually beneficial partnerships forged between mammals and their native microbes," says principal investigator Jeffrey I. Gordon, M.D., the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and head of the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology. "These symbiotic relationships probably are most important in the gut, which contains the largest and most complex collection of bacteria."

Gordon's team found that a key developmental program orchestrating formation of blood vessels in the gut following birth is a responsibility shared by intestinal bacteria and their host. The study appears in the November 5 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Thaddeus S. Stappenbeck, M.D., Ph.D., instructor of molecular biology and pharmacology, is first author and Lora Hooper, Ph.D., instructor of molecular biology and pharmacology, is co-author.

The team examined three groups of six-week-old male mice. One group of animals was reared with normal bacteria; another group was reared without any intestinal bacteria; a third group began bacteria-free but then were colonized with microbes taken from intestines of normal mice.

An imaging technique called confocal microscopy provided three-dimensional images of sections of intestinal tissue taken from each group of animals. The images offer a clear view of cells and blood vessels in tissue samples, and allow investigators to measure the density of capillaries, small blood vessels in the wall of the intestine.

In mice lacking intestinal bacteria, blood vessel formation
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Contact: Gila Z. Reckess
reckessg@msnotes.wustl.edu
314-286-0109
Washington University School of Medicine
4-Nov-2002


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