11] Genentech, South San Francisco, California, USA  Department of Pathology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
2Department of Pathology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
Compromised intestinal barrier function is a prominent feature of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, links between intestinal barrier loss and disease extend much further, including documented associations with celiac disease, type I diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. Intestinal barrier loss has also been proposed to have a critical role in the pathogenesis of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a serious, potentially fatal consequence of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Experimental evidence has begun to support this view, as barrier loss and its role in initiating and establishing a pathogenic inflammatory cycle in GVHD is emerging. Here we discuss similarities between IBD and GVHD, mechanisms of intestinal barrier loss in these diseases, and the crosstalk between barrier loss and the immune system, with a special focus on natural killer (NK) cells. Unanswered questions and future research directions on the topic are discussed along with implications for treatment.