The cells that line the mucosa of the human gastrointestinal tract (GI, that is, oral cavity, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum) are constantly challenged by adverse micro-environmental factors, such as different pH, enzymes, and bacterial flora. With exception of the oral cavity, these microenvironments also contain remnant cocktails of secreted enzymes and bacteria from upper organs along the tract. The density of the GI bacteria varies, from 103
/mL near the gastric outlet, to 1010
/mL at the ileocecal valve, to 1011
/mL in the colon. The total microbial population (ca.
) exceeds the total number of cells in the tract. It is, therefore, remarkable that despite the prima facie
inauspicious mixture of harmful secretions and bacteria, the normal GI mucosa retains a healthy state of cell renewal. To counteract the hostile microenvironment, the GI epithelia react
by speeding cell exfoliation (the GI mucosa has a turnover time of two to three days), by increasing peristalsis, by eliminating bacteria through secretion of plasma cell-immunoglobulins and by increasing production of natural antibacterial compounds, such as defensin-5 and lysozyme. Only recently, lysozyme was found up-regulated in Barrett’s oesophagitis, chronic gastritis, gluten-induced atrophic duodenitis (coeliac disease), collagenous colitis, lymphocytic colitis, and Crohn’s colitis. This up-regulation is a response directed to the special types of bacteria recently detected in these diseases. The aim of lysozyme up-regulation is to protect individual mucosal segments to chronic inflammation. The molecular mechanisms connected to the crosstalk between the intraluminal bacterial flora and the production of lysozyme released by the GI mucosae, are discussed. Bacterial resistance continues to exhaust our supply of commercial antibiotics. The potential use of lysozyme to treat infectious diseases is receiving much attention.