Background/Aims: Methods: The intestinal epithelial layer can switch from a net absorptive state to one of net secretion in the presence of luminal toxins and pathogens. This suggests an innate defence role for regulated secretion of mucus, electrolytes and water. We hypothesised that chloride-led fluid secretion across the mucus-covered intestinal epithelium alters barrier properties by influencing the overlying mucous-gel layer. Results: We demonstrated that chloride-led disruption of the epithelial-associated mucus-gel covering HT29-MTX-E12 (E12) human colonic epithelial monolayers, a goblet-cell like line derived from parental HT29 cells, resulted in reduction of associated mucus as well as a reduction in mucous-gel density and barrier properties. Changes in epithelial secretory state were accompanied by increased water transport, and the resulting loss of gel integrity reduced Salmonella typhimurium invasion of epithelia in both E12 monolayers and of isolated rat ileal mucosae. However, neither chloride secretion nor mucus disruption altered numbers of adhering bacteria. Conclusion: These data suggest a role for chloride led fluid secretion in the shedding of the adherent mucous-gel layer, possibly as a rate-limiting innate defence mechanism, and offer evidence for “enteric tears” in intestinal host defence.

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