Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious gastrointestinal disorder of preterm infants. Other than an association with prematurity and gastrointestinal feeding, no single factor or mechanism has been consistently linked to this disease. We have previously demonstrated that Escherichia coli isolates obtained from the stool of infants with NEC caused NEC-like injury in a weanling rabbit ileal loop model; this injury, in turn, could he blocked by coinfection with selected Gram(+) bacteria (Enterococcus faecium) isolated from asymptomatic controls. Using Caco-2 cells in a trans-well system, we now demonstrate that the same E. coli isolates can cross epithelial cell monolayers in the absence of ultrastructural change or damage. These results with E. coli contrast with those seen with Salmonella typhimurium, which passed through the monolayer at a higher rate and were associated with striking ultrastructural damage. Transcytosis of E. coli was reduced 3-5- fold in the presence of E. faecium previously shown to block NEC-like injury in the loop model. There was a mild increase in the rate of E. coli transcytosis when studies were conducted with younger, undifferentiated cells; these immature cells had no brush border, had decreased production of brush border-specific enzymes, but retained well defined tight junctions, as demonstrated by transepithelial electrical resistance and electron microscopy. A further reduction/complete blockage of E. coli transcytosis was observed when E. faecium was used as the coinfectant in studies with these undifferentiated cells. We hypothesize that the ability of E. coli to cross epithelial cell layer is a critical initial step in the cascade of events which lead ultimately to NEC; blockage or reduction in E. coli transcytosis in the presence of certain Gram(+) organisms may play a significant role in prevention of NEC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health