In the human body, mucosal surfaces of the intestinal tract are the largest and one of the most complex parts of the immune system. These surfaces are covered by a layer of epithelial cells which allows efficient absorption of nutrients but also serves to separate the intestine from an environment loaded with potential harmful agents. Discrimination between beneficial commensal bacteria, harmless antigens and pathogenic microorganisms is a central issue in the role that gut immune cells play in maintaining the balance between immune response and tolerance. However, the basis of this discrimination in the mucosal immune system, where this occurs and how it can affect both local and systemic responses is not yet well understood. Nevertheless, antigen uptake and presentation seems to be a crucial factor in this issue. In this review, we will discuss the key role of immune intestinal cells in the development of mucosal immunity, tolerance and disease.
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