Preterm infants face many challenges in transitioning from the in utero to extrauterine environment while still immature. Failure of the preterm gut to successfully mature to accommodate bacteria and food substrate leads to significant morbidity such as neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis. The intestinal epithelial barrier plays a critical role in gut protection. Heat shock protein 70 (Hsp70) is an inducible cytoprotective molecule shown to protect the intestinal epithelium in adult models. To investigate the hypothesis that Hsp70 may be important for early protection of the immature intestine, Hsp70 expression was evaluated in intestine of immature rat pups. Data demonstrate that Hsp70 is induced by exposure to mother's milk. Hsp70 is found in mother's milk, and increased Hsp70 transcription is induced by mother's milk. This Hsp70 colocalizes with the tight junction protein ZO-1. Mother's milk-induced Hsp70 may contribute to maintenance of barrier function in the face of oxidant stress. Further understanding of the means by which mother's milk increases Hsp70 in the ileum will allow potential means of strengthening the intestinal barrier in at-risk preterm infants.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health