Disruption of the intestinal epithelial barrier is a crucial manifestation of gastrointestinal disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and infectious colitis. Integrity of the epithelial barrier is mediated by specialized adhesive structures known as tight junctions (TJ) and adherens junctions (AJ). Evidence suggests that AJ and TJ become disassembled in inflamed intestinal mucosa creating a leakiness of the gut barrier. Understanding mechanisms that regulate junctional integrity in healthy gut and drive AJ/TJ disassembly during mucosal inflammation is the major goal of the proposed study. Integrity and remodeling of TJ and AJ depend on the actomyosin cytoskeleton composed of actin filaments and a specialized motor protein non-muscle myosin (NM) II. NM II works as a molecular ensemble of different heavy chains and light chains. The heavy chains are responsible for all functional activities of this motor including actin binding, ATP hydrolysis and myofilament assembly. Surprisingly, little is known about the role and regulations of NM II heavy chains in normal and inflamed intestinal epithelium. The central innovative hypothesis of this proposal proposes that NM II heavy chains (motors) are critical regulators of the establishment and maintenance of the epithelial barrier in healthy gut and that impaired expression/assembly of these motors results in barrier disruption and inhibited epithelial restitution during mucosal inflammation. This hypothesis will be tested in the following Aims: (1) to determine the roles of different NM II heavy chains in maintenance, disruption, and restitution of the intestinal epithelial barrier in vivo; (2) to investigate the involvement of NM II chaperone, UNC-45A, in the regulation of epithelial barrier integrity and restitution; 3) to analyze the roles of the septin cytoskeleton in NM II assembly and remodeling of the intestinal epithelial barrier.
These aims will be accomplished using in vitro intestinal epithelial cells exposed to inflammatory mediators and in vivo using murine models of colitis. The functions of different NM II heavy chains and NM II-targeting chaperons and septins will be analyzed via a combination of functional (permeability measurements, wound healing), biochemical (actin co-sedimentation, immunoblotting, detergent fractionation), immunocytochemical, and genetic (CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, overexpression of native and mutant proteins, knockout mice) approaches. Significance: the proposed study will yield new insights into fundamental mechanisms that regulate normal epithelial barriers and mediate intestinal mucosal injury and restitution during inflammation. Understanding these mechanisms will provide new therapeutic targets to prevent breakdown and enhance reparation of the gut barrier in patients with digestive diseases.

Public Health Relevance

Intestinal disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease and infectious colitis represent a serious health problem in the US with their incidence and complications accelerating over the past decades. This project will improve upon the understanding of normal gut physiology and the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal disorders by exploring novel mechanisms that regulate integrity of the gut barrier, development of intestinal inflammation and post-inflammatory mucosal restitution. Furthermore, it will identify novel targets for pharmacological prevention of intestinal barrier breakdown and for accelerated healing of injured gut mucosa, which would result in decreased morbidity and mortality of a large cohort of patients with inflammatory disorders.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Perrin, Peter J
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Cleveland Clinic Lerner
Other Basic Sciences
Schools of Medicine
United States
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