The healthy gut tolerates very large numbers of diverse bacterial species belonging mainly to the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla. These bacteria normally coexist peacefully with the gut and help maintain immune homeostasis and tolerance. The mechanisms promoting tolerance affect various cell populations, including the epithelial cells lining the gut, resident dendritic cells (DCs), and gut-homing T cells. Gut bacteria also influence multiple signaling pathways from Toll-like receptors to nuclear factor ¿B and regulate the functionality of DCs and T cells. Several bacterial species have been identified that promote T-cell differentiation, in particular T-helper 17 and T-regulatory cells. Insight into the molecular mechanisms by which bacteria mediate these effects will be very important in identifying new ways of treating intestinal and extra-intestinal immune-mediated diseases. These diseases are increasing dramatically in the human population and require new treatments. It may be possible in the future to identify specific bacterial species or strains that can correct for T-cell imbalances in the gut and promote immune homeostasis, both locally and systemically. In addition, new information describing microbial genomes affords the opportunity to mine for functional genes that may lead to new generation drugs relevant to a range of inflammatory disease conditions.
- molecular effectors
- inflammatory diseases