UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications

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Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems; Program in Microbiome Dynamics; Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

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Cell Biology | Cellular and Molecular Physiology | Developmental Biology


Epithelial cells lining mucosal surfaces of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts uniquely express IRE1β (Ern2), a paralogue of the most evolutionarily conserved endoplasmic reticulum stress sensor IRE1α. How IRE1β functions at the host-environment interface and why a second IRE1 paralogue evolved remain incompletely understood. Using conventionally raised and germ-free Ern2-/- mice, we found that IRE1β was required for microbiota-induced goblet cell maturation and mucus barrier assembly in the colon. This occurred only after colonization of the alimentary tract with normal gut microflora, which induced IRE1β expression. IRE1β acted by splicing Xbp1 mRNA to expand ER function and prevent ER stress in goblet cells. Although IRE1α can also splice Xbp1 mRNA, it did not act redundantly to IRE1β in this context. By regulating assembly of the colon mucus layer, IRE1β further shaped the composition of the gut microbiota. Mice lacking IRE1β had a dysbiotic microbial community that failed to induce goblet cell development when transferred into germ-free wild type mice. These results show that IRE1β evolved at mucosal surfaces to mediate crosstalk between gut microbes and the colonic epithelium required for normal homeostasis and host defense.


Cell Biology, endoplasmic reticulum stress sensor IRE1α, microbiota, gut microbes, epithelium

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bioRxiv 2021.07.28.453864; doi: Link to preprint on bioRxiv.


This article is a preprint. Preprints are preliminary reports of work that have not been certified by peer review.

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Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.