ScienceDaily (June 26, 2006) — University of Oregon researchers have shown that bacteria residing in the intestine shape gut development by means of several distinct signaling mechanisms.
This research is now available in the online version of the journal Developmental Biology and will be published in the journal's August print edition.
The researchers, led by Karen Guillemin, assistant professor of biology at the university's Institute of Molecular Biology, used "germ-free" zebrafish grown in sterile bubbles to examine how gut development differs in the absence of bacteria. They then added back individual bacterial strains or bacterial molecules to identify what signals were able to reverse different germ-free traits back to those of fish reared with normal gut bacteria. In one case, they found that a common component of the bacterial cell wall could restore normal levels of an intestinal enzyme whereas another trait, expression of a sugar on the intestinal cells, was regulated by specific members of the gut bacterial community.
"These findings demonstrate how germ-free zebrafish can be used to dissect the molecular dialogue between gut bacteria and their hosts," said Guillemin. "This is a dialogue which is important for the maturation of the gut during normal development and is likely to turn hostile in human conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease. A complete understanding of this dialogue could direct us toward better treatments for these diseases."