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Mucus and colitis group



Malin Johansson research group

Contact information | List of publications


Research focus

Our key interest is to understand the complex protective system of the gut with a specific focus on the secreted mucus and its role in protection and health. The epithelium of the intestinal tract is constantly challenged by ingested harsh and sometimes infectious material, endogenously produced dangerous compounds as high concentrations of acid or bicarbonate, digestive enzymes and bile. In addition our gut is the preferred home for numerous bacteria, our gut microbiota. Our relationship with the microbes is mutualistic and a balanced coexistence has developed over extensive evolutionary time. We believe that secreted mucus is of importance for protection with regards to all these aspects. The intestinal mucus aids in compartmentalization in different ways throughout the intestine. In the small intestine it functions as a diffusion barrier which will be enriched in secreted molecules as microbial defense proteins and peptides. In the large intestine the mucus forms a dense layer keeping most bacteria at a distance from the epithelium. 


Mucus in colitis

Mucus defects are closely linked to colitis. Failure of the mucus to keep bacteria at distance from the epithelium is observed in animal models genetically of chemically manipulated to develop colitis and in patients suffering from Ulcerative colitis. A defect mucus barrier could have several reasons relating to structural organization, rate of production and secretion and alterations in the surrounding environment. A key question that we want to understand is the sequential order of different mechanisms contributing to defect mucus protection. Mucus production, secretion and processing in combination with effects of epithelial ion transport, pH, cell proliferation and effects of immune modulators are studied. The aim is to gain better knowledge in the cause and consequence relationship during colitis development.


Molecular functions in the mucus

Several components build up mucus with the highly O-glycosylated, oligomeric MUC2 mucin as the structural frame. We termed molecules produced and secreted by the goblet cells as core mucus proteins. Most of these proteins have fairly unknown functions. Among these proteins we are studying FCGBP, a likely structural component in the mucus composed of repeated vWD domains, and CLCA1, a metalloprotease important for mucus processing and transformation of the mucus structure. 


The goblet cells

The mucus is secreted by very specialized secretory cells called goblet cells due to their shape. Goblet cells develop from the crypt located stem cells through transcriptionally controlled events but our data indicates that several distinct populations of goblet cells exist. We are studying the transcriptional profile of these different cells and will further characterize the functions of some of these groups. The mucus biosynthesis machinery is also very demanding for the cell and several molecules involved are goblet cell specific. Mucus secretion is also occurs trough different mechanisms. We aim to get a better understanding of different goblet cells and their role in forming the protective mucus.



Group members

Malin E. V. Johansson, PhD, PI
Frida Svensson, BMA
Beatriz Martinez Abad, PhD, postdoc
Elisabeth Nyström, PhD student
Erik Ehrencrona, PhD student
Jenny Persson, PhD student
Åsa Johansson, PhD student



Sidansvarig: Dan Baeckström|Sidan uppdaterades: 2018-09-07

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