We know more and more about the identity of our intestinal microbiota, but the next step is to understand how individual bacteria affect health and disease. Intestinal bacteria interact with the host in the mucus layer, a complex defense system that consists of secreted mucins, defense proteins and transmembrane mucins. Transmembrane mucins such as MUC1, MUC3, MUC4, MUC13 and MUC17 are expressed on the apical surface of intestinal epithelial cells and contain a large glycosylated extracellular domain and a cytoplasmic tail with signaling capacity. Important processes such as immune responses, proliferation and apoptosis, cellular migration, wound healing and epithelial barrier function are regulated by transmembrane mucins. Transmembrane mucins are also highly overexpressed in different adenocarcinomas (e.g. colorectal cancer, breast cancer and pancreatic cancer). We are investigating how commensal and pathogenic bacteria interact with mucins and impact their signaling. The goal of our research is to elucidate the functions of transmembrane mucins in health and disease.
Our research is centered around the following topics:
Commensal and pathogenic bacteria that interact with mucins
Signaling pathways associated with transmembrane mucins
Changes in the mucus layer during inflammatory bowel disease
The function of transmembrane mucins during carcinogenesis