Metabolic Activity of Microflora

The structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract is influenced greatly by the presence and make-up of indigenous microflora. In the germ-free murine model, lack of microflora leads to a thinner, less cellular intestinal wall; the villi are thinner, crypts shallower and mucosal surface area is decreased, thus interfering with the gut immune system and nutrient handling processes. The intestinal flora is responsible for production of some micronu-trients, particularly vitamins (biotin, folate, and vitamin K), and also fermentation of carbohydrates, which results in the production of short-chain fatty acids (acetate, proprionate, and butyrate). These end products are known to be active in the regeneration and health of the mucosal cellular make up. Glyco-sylation of complex carbohydrates on the microvil-lus membrane are specifically related to anaerobic bacteria in the gut lumen. Additionally, the microflora modulates the release of peptides and some proteins from the endocrine cells in the mucosa of the GI tract.

Innate bacteria induce many beneficial responses of the gut immune system. Bacterial interaction with the epithelial cells can enhance local immunity and deter response to antigens. Gram-negative bacteria cause the production of proinflammatory cytokines including interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-a).

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