Maayan Levy, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

Intestinal Cell Functions in Host-Microbiome Interactions

The intestinal barrier is essential for the homeostasis of any mammalian organism, as it separates the inside of the body from the vast community of microorganisms and dietary molecules that are residing in the gastrointestinal tract. A breakdown or impairment of the intestinal barrier has been associated with numerous diseases, ranging from chronic inflammatory disorders and enteric infections to metabolic derangements and even neurodegenerative diseases. Furthermore, intestinal permeability has been implicated as a critical determinant in the predisposition to inflammatory bowel disease. However, the factors that regulate the homeostatic function of the intestinal barrier remain poorly understood.

The main structural element of the intestinal barrier is formed by a single layer of intestinal epithelial cells that line the mucosal surface of the gut. This monolayer of specialized cells facilitates digestion and absorption of nutrients, while at the same time acting as a barrier to invading microorganisms, toxins, and dietary antigens. Dysregulation of the epithelial layer can increase intestinal permeability and expose immune cells in the intestinal lamina propria to luminal content, which in turn instigates chronic inflammation and promotes disease. 

The intestinal microbiome synthesizes, modifies and degrades a large repertoire of small molecules, thereby providing a functional complementation to the metabolic capacities of the host. There is increasing evidence that these metabolites, rather than merely complementing host metabolism, in many circumstances serve as signaling molecules that regulate diverse aspects of host biology, including epithelial homeostasis, immune cell development, and neuronal regulation. The overarching goal of my lab is to gain a comprehensive and mechanistic understanding of the repertoire of microbial metabolites that are functionally involved in the regulation of intestinal barrier function and intestinal inflammation.

Reception: 5-6pm
Lecture: 6-7pm

Thomas Jefferson University
Bluemle Life Sciences Building
233 S. 10th Street (10th an Locust), Philadelphia 19104

Discounted parking at the garage on 11th and Locust (entrance on 11th Street under the Hamilton Bldg)