Active thrombin produced by the intestinal epithelium controls mucosal biofilms
Proteolytic homeostasis is important at mucosal surfaces, but its actors and their precise role in physiology are poorly understood. Here we report that healthy human and mouse colon epithelia are a major source of active thrombin. We show that mucosal thrombin is directly regulated by the presence of commensal microbiota. Specific inhibition of luminal thrombin activity causes macroscopic and microscopic damage as well as transcriptomic alterations of genes involved in host-microbiota interactions. Further, luminal thrombin inhibition impairs the spatial segregation of microbiota biofilms, allowing bacteria to invade the mucus layer and to translocate across the epithelium. Thrombin cleaves the biofilm matrix of reconstituted mucosa-associated human microbiota. Our results indicate that thrombin constrains biofilms at the intestinal mucosa. Further work is needed to test whether thrombin plays similar roles in other mucosal surfaces, given that lung, bladder and skin epithelia also express thrombin. The roles played by thrombin in the human intestinal mucosa are unclear. Here, the authors show that the commensal microbiota modulates epithelial production of active thrombin, which controls biofilm growth and contributes to protection of the mucosa from bacterial invasion.