The epithelial barrier theory: Development and exacerbation of allergic and other chronic inflammatory diseases

Küçüksezer U. C., Özdemir C., Yazici D., Pat Y., Mitamura Y., Li M., ...More

ASIA PACIFIC ALLERGY, vol.13, no.1, pp.28-39, 2023 (ESCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 13 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.5415/apallergy.0000000000000005
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.28-39
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


It is now longer than half a century, humans, animals, and nature of the world are under the influence of exposure to many newly introduced noxious substances. These exposures are nowadays pushing the borders to be considered as the causative or exacerbating factors for many chronic disorders including allergic, autoimmune/inflammatory, and metabolic diseases. The epithelial linings serve as the outermost body's primary physical, chemical, and immunological barriers against external stimuli. The "epithelial barrier theory" hypothesizes that these diseases are aggravated by an ongoing periepithelial inflammation triggered by exposure to a wide range of epithelial barrier-damaging insults that lead to "epithelitis" and the release of alarmins. A leaky epithelial barrier enables the microbiome's translocation from the periphery to interepithelial and even deeper subepithelial areas together with allergens, toxins, and pollutants. Thereafter, microbial dysbiosis, characterized by colonization of opportunistic pathogen bacteria and loss of the number and biodiversity of commensal bacteria take place. Local inflammation, impaired tissue regeneration, and remodeling characterize the disease. The infiltration of inflammatory cells to affected tissues shows an effort to expulse the tissue invading bacteria, allergens, toxins, and pollutants away from the deep tissues to the surface, representing the "expulsion response." Cells that migrate to other organs from the inflammatory foci may play roles in the exacerbation of various inflammatory diseases in distant organs. The purpose of this review is to highlight and appraise recent opinions and findings on epithelial physiology and its role in the pathogenesis of chronic diseases in view of the epithelial barrier theory.