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Bacteria Enter Via Mucus-Making Gut Cells

Cells making slippery mucus provide a sticking point for disease-causing bacteria in the gut, according to a study published on October 3 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine (

A foodborne bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes (sometimes found in stinky cheeses) invades the body by binding to a protein called E-cadherin. However, as E-cadherin is normally buried within the junctions between gut cells, and is thus hidden from the cell surface, it’s not clear how the bug gains traction.

In response to Listeria invasion, specialized gut cells called goblet cells produce mucus in an attempt to flush the bacteria away. Scientists in France now find that the reorganization required for goblet cells to expel their slippery product also exposes E-cadherin on their surface, allowing Listeria to grab hold and cause systemic infection.

About The Journal of Experimental Medicine
The Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM) is published by The Rockefeller University Press. All editorial decisions on manuscripts submitted are made by active scientists in conjunction with our in-house scientific editors. JEM content is posted to PubMed Central, where it is available to the public for free six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their published works and third parties may reuse the content for non-commercial purposes under a creative commons license. For more information, please visit

Nikitas, G., et al. 2011. J. Exp. Med. doi:10.1084/jem.20110560

Rita Sullivan | Newswise Science News
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