Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) remains the leading cause of gastrointestinal morbidity and mortality in premature infants. Human and animal studies suggest a role for Paneth cells in NEC pathogenesis. Paneth cells play critical roles in host-microbial interactions and epithelial homeostasis. The ramifications of eliminating Paneth cell function on the immature hostmicrobial axis remains incomplete. Paneth cell function was depleted in the immature murine intestine using chemical and genetic models, which resulted in intestinal injury consistent with NEC. Paneth cell depletion was confirmed using histology, electron microscopy, flow cytometry, and real time RT-PCR. Cecal samples were analyzed at various time points to determine the effects of Paneth cell depletion with and without Klebsiella gavage on the microbiome. Deficient Paneth cell function induced significant compositional changes in the cecal microbiome with a significant increase in Enterobacteriacae species. Further, the bloom of Enterobacteriaceae species that occurs is phenotypically similar to what is seen in human NEC. This further strengthens our understanding of the importance of Paneth cells to intestinal homeostasis in the immature intestine.
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