Postnatal maturation of the intestinal epithelial barrier in prairie voles

David J. Supeck, Senait Assefa, William Meek, Tom Curtis, Gerwald Koehler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Intestinal epithelium develops during gestation and continues to mature post-natally into a selective barrier that will protect the individual while still allowing passage of nutrients. Until fully mature, the risk of translocation of microorganisms, toxins or antigens into the sub-epithelial tissue is high and could result in pathologies with life-altering consequences, or even premature death. Because of their monogamous mating system, prairie voles are an emerging model for studying the role of the intestinal microbiota in modulating social behavior via the microbiota-gut-brain-behavior axis. However, knowledge about the voles’ intestinal barrier maturation is lacking. Understanding the maturation of the intestine epithelial barrier can complement the extensive behavioral literature for future studies involving the vole gut-brain axis. In this study, we characterized intestinal barrier function by demonstrating that two-week-old prairie voles have high paracellular absorption of FITC-dextran molecules prior to markedly decreased permeability at three weeks of age. In light of the fundamental role of tight junctions in maintaining epithelial integrity regulating intestinal permeability, we examined tight junction gene expression profiles. Transmission electron microscopy was used to visualize tight junction structure. Our results provide a timeline for intestinal barrier maturation and point to tight junction proteins involved in this process in prairie voles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-37
Number of pages8
JournalTissue and Cell
StatePublished - Oct 2018


  • Colon epithelial barrier
  • Microtus ochrogaster
  • Prairie voles
  • Tight junctions


Dive into the research topics of 'Postnatal maturation of the intestinal epithelial barrier in prairie voles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this