The disruption of the protective intestinal barrier—the ‘leaky gut’—is a common complication of the inflammatory bowel disease. There is limited data on the mechanisms of the intestinal barrier disruption upon low-grade inflammation characteristic of patients with inflammatory bowel disease in clinical remission. Thus, animal models that recapitulate the complexity of chronic intestinal inflammation in vivo are of particular interest. In this study, we used Mucin-2 (Muc2) knockout mice predisposed to colitis to study intestinal barrier upon chronic inflammation. We used 4-kDa FITC-Dextran assay and transmission electron microscopy to demonstrate the increased intestinal permeability and morphological defects in intercellular junctions in Muc2 knockout mice. Confocal microscopy revealed the disruption of the apical F-actin cytoskeleton and delocalization of tight junction protein Claudin-3 from the membrane. We further demonstrate mitochondrial damage, impaired oxygen consumption and the reduction of the intestinal ATP content in Muc2 knockout mice. Finally, we show that chemically induced mitochondrial uncoupling in the wild type mice mimics the intestinal barrier disruption in vivo and causes partial loss of F-actin and membrane localization of Claudin-3. We propose that mitochondrial damage and metabolic shifts during chronic inflammation contribute to the leaky gut syndrome in Muc2 knockout animal model of colitis.
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