The intestinal epithelial barrier, which works as the first line of defense between the luminal environment and the host, once destroyed, it will cause serious inflammation or other intestinal diseases. Tight junctions (TJs) play a vital role to maintain the integrity of the epithelial barrier. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), one of the most important inflammatory factors will downregulate specific TJ proteins including Occludin and Claudin-1 and impair integrity of the epithelial barrier. Betaine has excellent anti-inflammatory activity but whether betaine has any effect on TJ proteins, particularly on LPS-induced dysfunction of epithelial barriers remains unknown. The purpose of this study is to explore the pharmacological effect of betaine on improving intestinal barrier function represented by TJ proteins. Intestinal porcine epithelial cells (IPEC-J2) were used as an in vitro model.
The results demonstrated that betaine enhanced the expression of TJ proteins while LPS (1 μg/mL) downregulates the expression of these proteins. Furthermore, betaine attenuates LPS-induced decreases of TJ proteins both shown by Western blot (WB) and Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). The immunofluorescent images consistently revealed that LPS induced the disruption of TJ protein Claudin-1 and reduced its expression while betaine could reverse these alterations. Similar protective role of betaine on intestinal barrier function was observed by transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) approach.
In conclusion, our research demonstrated that betaine attenuated LPS-induced downregulation of Occludin and Claudin-1 and restored the intestinal barrier function.