The lumen of the small intestine (SI) is filled with particulates: microbes, therapeutic particles, and food granules. The structure of this particulate suspension could impact uptake of drugs and nutrients and the function of microorganisms; however, little is understood about how this suspension is re-structured as it transits the gut. Here, we demonstrate that particles spontaneously aggregate in SI luminal fluid ex vivo. We find that mucins and immunoglobulins are not required for aggregation. Instead, aggregation can be controlled using polymers from dietary fiber in a manner that is qualitatively consistent with polymer-induced depletion interactions, which do not require specific chemical interactions. Furthermore, we find that aggregation is tunable; by feeding mice dietary fibers of different molecular weights, we can control aggregation in SI luminal fluid. This work suggests that the molecular weight and concentration of dietary polymers play an underappreciated role in shaping the physicochemical environment of the gut. Editorial note: This article has been through an editorial process in which the authors decide how to respond to the issues raised during peer review. The Reviewing Editor’s assessment is that all the issues have been addressed (see decision letter).
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)