The mucin Muc2 is the structural component of the colonic mucus layer. Adult Muc2 knockout (Muc2-/-) mice suffer from severe colitis. We hypothesized that Muc2 deficiency induces inflammation before weaning of mother's milk [postnatal day (P) 14] with aggravation of colitis after weaning (P28). Muc2-/-and wild-type mice were killed at embryonic day 18.5 and P1.5, P7.5, P14, P21, and P28. Colonic morphology, influx of T cells, and goblet cell-specific protein expression was investigated by (immuno)histochemistry. Cytokine and Tolllike receptor (TLR) profiles in the colon were analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR. Muc2-/-mice showed an increased and persistent influx of Cd3ε-positive T cells in the colonic mucosa as of P1.5. This was accompanied by mucosal damage at P28 in the distal colon but not in the proximal colon. At P14, the proinflammatory immune response [i.e., increased interleukin (IL)-12 p35, IL-12 p40, and tumor necrosis factor-α, expression] in the distal colon of Muc2-/-mice presented with an immune suppressive response [i.e., increased Foxp3, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, IL-10, and Ebi3 expression]. In contrast, at P28, a proinflammatory response remained in the distal colon, whereas the immune suppressive response (i.e., Foxp3 and TGF-β1 expression) declined. The proximal colon of Muc2-/-mice did not show morphological damage and was dominated by an immune suppressive response at P14 and P28. Interestingly, changes in expression of TLRs and TLR-related molecules were observed in the distal colon at P14 and P28 and in the proximal colon only at P28. Colitis in Muc2-/-mice is limited before weaning by immune suppressive responses and exacerbates in the distal colon after weaning because of the decline in the immune suppressive response.

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American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Paassen, N. B.-V., van der Sluis, M., Bouma, J., Korteland-van Male, A., Lu, P., van Seuningen, I., … Renes, I. (2011). Colitis development during the suckling-weaning transition in mucin muc2-deficient mice. American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 301(4). doi:10.1152/ajpgi.00199.2010