Colonic Immune Function and Colonic Bacterial Flora

The immune system of the gastrointestinal tract defends against infection (bacterial, viral, and parasitic) and luminal antigens ingested/formed by bacteria. Nonspecific and specific mechanisms exist.

The mucin secreted by colonic goblet cells serves a barrier function for the mucosal surface. Mucosal integrity is an important barrier to luminal pathogens. Interepithelial cell junctions function both to control permeability as pertains to fluid and electrolyte absorption and to prevent pathogen access beyond this layer.

The enteric immune system is vast and complex; it interacts with the rest of the immune system as well as with luminal contents. Gut-associated lym-phoid tissue consists of both discretely organized tissue, such as Peyer's patches (lymphoid follicles with proliferative potential in response to antigen presentation) containing M cells, and the more diffuse lymphocytes and macrophages distributed among the submucosa, mucosa, and lamina propria (Figure 6). M cells function in antigen sampling of

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