Objective The intestinal lumen contains several proteases. Our aim was to determine the role of faecal proteases in mediating barrier dysfunction and symptoms in IBS. Design 39 patients with IBS and 25 healthy volunteers completed questionnaires, assessments of in vivo permeability, ex vivo colonic barrier function in Ussing chambers, tight junction (TJ) proteins, ultrastructural morphology and 16 s sequencing of faecal microbiota rRNA. A casein-based assay was used to measure proteolytic activity (PA) in faecal supernatants (FSNs). Colonic barrier function was determined in mice (ex-germ free) humanised with microbial communities associated with different human PA states. Results Patients with IBS had higher faecal PA than healthy volunteers. 8/20 postinfection IBS (PI-IBS) and 3/19 constipation- predominant IBS had high PA (>95th percentile). High-PA patients had more and looser bowel movements, greater symptom severity and higher in vivo and ex vivo colonic permeability. High-PA FSNs increased paracellular permeability, decreased occludin and increased phosphorylated myosin light chain (pMLC) expression. Serine but not cysteine protease inhibitor significantly blocked high-PA FSN effects on barrier. The effects on barrier were diminished by pharmacological or siRNA inhibition of protease activated receptor-2 (PAR-2). Patients with high-PA IBS had lower occludin expression, wider TJs on biopsies and reduced microbial diversity than patients with low PA. Mice humanised with high-PA IBS microbiota had greater in vivo permeability than those with low-PA microbiota. Conclusion A subset of patients with IBS, especially in PI-IBS, has substantially high faecal PA, greater symptoms, impaired barrier and reduced microbial diversity. Commensal microbiota affects luminal PA that can influence host barrier function.
- germ-free mice
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