The role of intestinal epithelial barrier function in the development of NEC

Melissa D. Halpern, Patricia W. Denning

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


The intestinal epithelial barrier plays an important role in maintaining host health. Breakdown of intestinal barrier function is known to play a role in many diseases such as infectious enteritis, idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease, and neonatal inflammatory bowel diseases. Recently, increasing research has demonstrated the importance of understanding how intestinal epithelial barrier function develops in the premature neonate in order to develop strategies to promote its maturation. Optimizing intestinal barrier function is thought to be key to preventing neonatal inflammatory bowel diseases such as necrotizing enterocolitis. In this review, we will first summarize the key components of the intestinal epithelial barrier, what is known about its development, and how this may explain NEC pathogenesis. Finally, we will review what therapeutic strategies may be used to promote optimal development of neonatal intestinal barrier function in order to reduce the incidence and severity of NEC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTissue Barriers
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015


  • Apical junctional complex
  • Commensal bacteria
  • Intestinal epithelial barrier
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC)
  • Prematurity
  • Probiotics
  • Tight junctions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Histology
  • Cell Biology


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