Environmental enteric dysfunction (EED) is a diffuse small bowel disorder associated with poor growth, inadequate responses to oral vaccines, and nutrient malabsorption in millions of children worldwide. We identify loss of the small intestinal Paneth and goblet cells that are critical for innate immunity, reduced villous height, increased bile acids, and dysregulated nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) synthesis signaling as potential mechanisms underlying EED and which also correlated with diminished length-for-age z score. Isocaloric low-protein diet (LPD) consumption in mice recapitulated EED histopathology and transcriptomic changes in a microbiota-independent manner, as well as increases in serum and fecal bile acids. Children with refractory EED harbor single-nucleotide polymorphisms in key enzymes involved in NAD+ synthesis. In mice, deletion of Nampt, the gene encoding the rate-limiting enzyme in the NAD+ salvage pathway, from intestinal epithelium also reduced Paneth cell function, a deficiency that was further aggravated by LPD. Separate supplementation with NAD+ precursors or bile acid sequestrant partially restored LPD-associated Paneth cell defects and, when combined, fully restored all histopathology defects in LPD-fed mice.Therapeutic regimens that increase protein and NAD+ contents while reducing excessive bile acids may benefit children with refractory EED.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4145
JournalScience translational medicine
Issue number728
StatePublished - 2024


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