Intestinal epithelial barrier function and tight junction proteins with heat and exercise.
A single layer of enterocytes and tight junctions (intercellular multiprotein complexes) form the intestinal epithelial barrier that controls transport of molecules through transcellular and paracellular pathways. A dysfunctional or "leaky" intestinal tight junction barrier allows augmented permeation of luminal antigens, endotoxins, and bacteria into the blood stream. Various substances and conditions have been shown to affect the maintenance of the intestinal epithelial tight junction barrier. The primary focus of the present review is to analyze the effects of exertional or nonexertional (passive hyperthermia) heat stress on tight junction barrier function in in vitro and in vivo (animals and humans) models. Our secondary focus is to review changes in tight junction proteins in response to exercise or hyperthermic conditions. Finally, we discuss some pharmacological or nutritional interventions that may affect the cellular mechanisms involved in maintaining homeostasis of the intestinal epithelial tight junction barrier during heat stress or exercise.