Resistin-like molecule β is a bactericidal protein that promotes spatial segregation of the microbiota and the colonic epithelium

Daniel C. Propheter, Andrew L. Chara, Tamia A. Harris, Kelly A. Ruhn, Lora V. Hooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


The mammalian intestine is colonized by trillions of bacteria that perform essential metabolic functions for their hosts. The mutualistic nature of this relationship depends on maintaining spatial segregation between these bacteria and the intestinal epithelial surface. This segregation is achieved in part by the presence of a dense mucus layer at the epithelial surface and by the production of antimicrobial proteins that are secreted by epithelial cells into the mucus layer. Here, we show that resistin-like molecule β (RELMβ) is a bactericidal protein that limits contact between Gram-negative bacteria and the colonic epithelial surface. Mouse and human RELMβ selectively killed Gram-negative bacteria by forming size-selective pores that permeabilized bacterial membranes. In mice lacking RELMβ, Proteobacteria were present in the inner mucus layer and invaded mucosal tissues. Another RELM family member, human resistin, was also bactericidal, suggesting that bactericidal activity is a conserved function of the RELM family. Our findings thus identify the RELM family as a unique family of bactericidal proteins and show that RELMβ promotes host–bacterial mutualism by regulating the spatial segregation between the microbiota and the intestinal epithelium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11027-11033
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 17 2017


  • Antibacterial protein
  • Innate immunity
  • Intestinal epithelium
  • Microbiota

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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