The role of the mucus barrier in digestion

A. R. Mackie, A. N. Round, N. M. Rigby, A. Macierzanka

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18 Citations (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


Mucus forms a protective layer across a variety of epithelial surfaces. In the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the barrier has to permit the uptake of nutrients, while excluding potential hazards, such as pathogenic bacteria. In this short review article, we look at recent literature on the structure, location, and properties of the mammalian intestinal secreted mucins and the mucus layer they form over a wide range of length scales. In particular, we look at the structure of the gel-forming glycoprotein MUC2, the primary intestinal secreted mucin, and the influence this has on the properties of the mucus layer. We show that, even at the level of the protein backbone, MUC2 is highly heterogeneous and that this is reflected in the networks it forms. It is evident that a combination of charge and pore size determines what can diffuse through the layer to the underlying gut epithelium. This information is important for the targeted delivery of bioactive molecules, including nutrients and pharmaceuticals, and for understanding how GI health is maintained.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-15
Number of pages8
JournalFood Digestion
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2012

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