Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Tumor necrosis factor induces developmental stage-dependent structural changes in the immature small intestine.



Premature infants are commonly subject to intestinal inflammation. Since the human small intestine does not reach maturity until term gestation, premature infants have a unique challenge, as either acute or chronic inflammation may alter the normal development of the intestinal tract. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has been shown to acutely alter goblet cell numbers and villus length in adult mice. In this study we tested the effects of TNF on villus architecture and epithelial cells at different stages of development of the immature small intestine.


To examine the effects of TNF-induced inflammation, we injected acute, brief, or chronic exposures of TNF in neonatal and juvenile mice.


TNF induced significant villus blunting through a TNF receptor-1 (TNFR1) mediated mechanism, leading to loss of villus area. This response to TNFR1 signaling was altered during intestinal development, despite constant TNFR1 protein expression. Acute TNF-mediated signaling also significantly decreased Paneth cells.


Taken together, the morphologic changes caused by TNF provide insight as to the effects of inflammation on the developing intestinal tract. Additionally, they suggest a mechanism which, coupled with an immature immune system, may help to explain the unique susceptibility of the immature intestine to inflammatory diseases such as NEC.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View