The gut microbiota is associated with the small intestinal paracellular permeability and the development of the immune system in healthy children during the first two years of life


  • M. Kaczmarczyk
  • U. Löber
  • K. Adamek
  • D. Węgrzyn
  • K. Skonieczna-Żydecka
  • D. Malinowski
  • I. Łoniewski
  • L. Markó
  • T. Ulas
  • S.K. Forslund
  • B. Łoniewska


  • Journal of Translational Medicine


  • J Transl Med 19 (1): 177


  • BACKGROUND: The intestinal barrier plays an important role in the defense against infections, and nutritional, endocrine, and immune functions. The gut microbiota playing an important role in development of the gastrointestinal tract can impact intestinal permeability and immunity during early life, but data concerning this problem are scarce. METHODS: We analyzed the microbiota in fecal samples (101 samples in total) collected longitudinally over 24 months from 21 newborns to investigate whether the markers of small intestinal paracellular permeability (zonulin) and immune system development (calprotectin) are linked to the gut microbiota. The results were validated using data from an independent cohort that included the calprotectin and gut microbiota in children during the first year of life. RESULTS: Zonulin levels tended to increase for up to 6 months after childbirth and stabilize thereafter remaining at a high level while calprotectin concentration was high after childbirth and began to decline from 6 months of life. The gut microbiota composition and the related metabolic potentials changed during the first 2 years of life and were correlated with zonulin and calprotectin levels. Faecal calprotectin correlated inversely with alpha diversity (Shannon index, r = − 0.30, FDR P (Q) = 0.039). It also correlated with seven taxa; i.a. negatively with Ruminococcaceae (r = − 0.34, Q = 0.046), and Clostridiales (r = − 0.34, Q = 0.048) and positively with Staphylococcus (r = 0.38, Q = 0.023) and Staphylococcaceae (r = 0.35, Q = 0.04), whereas zonulin correlated with 19 taxa; i.a. with Bacillales (r = − 0.52, Q = 0.0004), Clostridiales (r = 0.48, Q = 0.001) and the Ruminococcus (torques group) (r = 0.40, Q = 0.026). When time intervals were considered only changes in abundance of the Ruminococcus (torques group) were associated with changes in calprotectin (β = 2.94, SE = 0.8, Q = 0.015). The dynamics of stool calprotectin was negatively associated with changes in two MetaCyc pathways: pyruvate fermentation to butanoate (β = − 4.54, SE = 1.08, Q = 0.028) and Clostridium acetobutylicum fermentation (β = − 4.48, SE = 1.16, Q = 0.026). CONCLUSIONS: The small intestinal paracellular permeability, immune system-related markers and gut microbiota change dynamically during the first 2 years of life. The Ruminococcus (torques group) seems to be especially involved in controlling paracellular permeability. Staphylococcus, Staphylococcaceae, Ruminococcaceae, and Clostridiales, may be potential biomarkers of the immune system. Despite observed correlations their clear causation and health consequences were not proven. Mechanistic studies are required.