Nov. 17, 2007 To ensure that the gut absorbs as many as possible of the nutrients that we consume tiny finger-like structures known as villi protrude from the lining of the gut to increase its absorptive surface area.
Continuous turnover of the cells lining the gut is required for it to function optimally. As cells at the tips of the villi naturally die off they are replaced by cells that have migrated to their new home from the base of the villi. Similarly, repair of intestinal injury, which often accompanies traumatic stress, occurs through migration of healthy intestinal cells to the site of injury from the base of the villi. MFG-E8 is a component of human breast milk that protects infants from intestinal infection.
It is also known that the MFG-E8 gene is expressed in the adult gut, but its role there has not been well understood. In a new study, Xiao-Di Tan and colleagues at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, have identified a crucial role for MFG-E8 in maintenance and repair of the murine intestinal lining.
In a wound-healing experiment with cultured rat intestinal epithelial cells, treatment with MFG-E8 improved cell migration to the site of injury. Additionally, depletion of this protein in mice resulted in decreased intestinal cell migration and localized injury of the intestinal lining.
Finally, in septic mice with widespread infection due to puncture of the large intestine, treatment with MFG-E8 improved intestinal cell migration, whereas depletion of MFG-E8 prolonged healing time. These data led the authors to suggest that MFG-E8 might be useful for the treatment of individuals with bowel injuries.
Article: Milk fat globule--EGF factor 8/lactadherin plays a crucial role in maintenance and repair of murine intestinal epithelium, Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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