Bifidobacteria stabilize claudins at tight junctions and prevent intestinal barrier dysfunction in mouse necrotizing enterocolitis

Kelly R. Bergmann, Shirley X.L. Liu, Runlan Tian, Anna Kushnir, Jerrold R. Turner, Hong Lin Li, Pauline M. Chou, Christopher R. Weber, Isabelle G. De Plaen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Whether intestinal barrier disruption precedes or is the consequence of intestinal injury in necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) remains unknown. Using a neonatal mouse NEC model, we examined the changes in intestinal permeability and specific tight-junction (TJ) proteins preceding NEC and asked whether these changes are prevented by administration of Bifidobacterium infantis, a probiotic known to decrease NEC incidence in humans. Compared with dam-fed controls, pups submitted to the NEC protocol developed i) significantly increased intestinal permeability at 12 and 24 hours (as assessed by 70-kDa fluorescein isothiocyanate-dextran transmucosal flux); ii) occludin and claudin 4 internalization at 12 hours (as assessed by immunofluorescence and low-density membrane fraction immunoblotting); iii) increased claudin 2 expression at 6 hours and decreased claudin 4 and 7 expression at 24 hours; and iv) increased claudin 2 protein at 48 hours. Similar results were seen in human NEC, with claudin 2 protein increased. In mice, administration of B. infantis micro-organisms attenuated increases in intestinal permeability, preserved claudin 4 and occludin localization at TJs, and decreased NEC incidence. Thus, an increase in intestinal permeability precedes NEC and is associated with internalization of claudin 4 and occludin. Administration of B. infantis prevents these changes and reduces NEC incidence. The beneficial effect of B. infantis is, at least in part, due to its TJ and barrier-preserving properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1595-1606
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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