Hongbing Yu, Bruce Vallance, and Kevan Jacobson

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This week we profile a recent publication in PNAS from Dr. Hongbing Yu (pictured, left)
and a team in Dr. Bruce Vallance’s (center) and Kevan Jacobson’s (right) labs at UBC.

Could you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

Dr. Jacobson’s and Dr. Vallance’s labs are focusing on the role of the epithelial barrier in intestinal inflammatory disease and potential modifiers, including diet, enteric pathogens and enteric neuropeptides. As a senior research associate, I am branching into a new research field where immune cells mediate the interaction between neuropeptides and epithelial cells.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Group 3 innate lymphoid cells enriched in the gut mediate host resistance against intestinal pathogens. Their function and development can be regulated by diverse factors, including neuropeptides secreted by the enteric nervous system. We show that the neuropeptide vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) promotes the recruitment of these innate lymphoid cells and other immune cells to the gut through a receptor. Mice lacking VIP or its receptor were highly susceptible to an enteric pathogen infection. Replenishing the innate lymphoid cells or their secreted products into these mice was able to partially or fully restore host resistance to the infection. Thus, the enteric nervous system, through VIP, regulates the recruitment of innate lymphoid cells to the gut, offering protection against enteric pathogens.

What are the next steps for this research?

Our next step is to explore how enteric nervous system and immune cells sense bacterial infections, and how they work in concert to dictate host responses during homeostasis and inflammation. We will also determine how other cellular sources of VIP control mucosal defense against enteric pathogen infection, as well as identify the cell types that mediate the action of VIP. Our research will potentially lead to the development of novel strategies that target host responses to treat microbial infections.

This research was funded by:

Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, NSERC, CH.I.L.D Foundation.

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