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Campylobacter jejuni induces transcytosis of commensal bacteria across the intestinal epithelium through M-like cells

Lisa D Kalischuk, Frances Leggett and G Douglas Inglis*

Author Affiliations

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 5403 1st Avenue South, T1J 4B1, Lethbridge, AB, Canada

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Gut Pathogens 2010, 2:14  doi:10.1186/1757-4749-2-14

Published: 1 November 2010



Recent epidemiological analyses have implicated acute Campylobacter enteritis as a factor that may incite or exacerbate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in susceptible individuals. We have demonstrated previously that C. jejuni disrupts the intestinal barrier function by rapidly inducing epithelial translocation of non-invasive commensal bacteria via a transcellular lipid raft-mediated mechanism ('transcytosis'). To further characterize this mechanism, the aim of this current study was to elucidate whether C. jejuni utilizes M cells to facilitate transcytosis of commensal intestinal bacteria.


C. jejuni induced translocation of non-invasive E. coli across confluent Caco-2 epithelial monolayers in the absence of disrupted transepithelial electrical resistance or increased permeability to a 3 kDa dextran probe. C. jejuni-infected monolayers displayed increased numbers of cells expressing the M cell-specific marker, galectin-9, reduced numbers of enterocytes that stained with the absorptive enterocyte marker, Ulex europaeus agglutinin-1, and reduced activities of enzymes typically associated with absorptive enterocytes (namely alkaline phosphatase, lactase, and sucrase). Furthermore, in Campylobacter-infected monolayers, E. coli were observed to be internalized specifically within epithelial cells displaying M-like cell characteristics.


These data indicate that C. jejuni may utilize M cells to promote transcytosis of non-invasive bacteria across the intact intestinal epithelial barrier. This mechanism may contribute to the inflammatory immune responses against commensal intestinal bacteria commonly observed in IBD patients.