An intact mucus layer is important in managing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Dairy Propionibacterium freudenreichii has probiotic potential, produces propionic acid and is known to promote health. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of P. freudenreichii on the improvement of colitis. LS 174T goblet cells and a dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis rat model were used to investigate the P. freudenreichii-induced stimulation of mucin production in vitro and in vivo, respectively. The mRNA and protein expression levels of MUC2, a main component of intestinal mucus, increased in the supernatant of P. freudenreichii culture (SPFC)-treated LS 174 cells. The SPFC and live P. freudenreichii (LPF) reduced the disease activity index (DAI) in the rats with DSS-induced colitis. After treatment with SPFC or LPF, the mRNA levels of typical pro-inflammatory cytokines decreased and the inflammatory state was histologically improved in the rats with DSS-induced colitis. The SPFC and LPF treatments increased the gene and protein expression levels of MUC2 in the rats with DSS-induced colitis compared with the expression levels in the negative control rats, and immunohistochemistry (IHC) showed an increase of the intestinal MUC2 level. In addition, SPFC and LPF augmented the level of propionate in the faeces of the rats with DSS-induced colitis. In conclusion, P. freudenreichii might improve acute colitis by restoring goblet cell number and stimulating the expression of MUC2 in intestinal goblet cells.
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