Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is the most frequent and devastating gastrointestinal disease of premature infants. Although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood, NEC is thought to develop following a combination of prematurity, formula feeding, and adverse microbial colonization. Within the last decade, studies increasingly support an important role of a heightened mucosal immune response initiating a pro-inflammatory signaling cascade, which can lead to the disruption of the intestinal epithelium and translocation of pathogenic species. In this review, we first describe the cellular composition of the intestinal epithelium and its critical role in maintaining epithelial integrity. We then discuss cell signaling during NEC, specifically, toll-like receptors and nucleotide oligomerization domain-like receptors. We further review cytokines and cellular components that characterize the innate and adaptive immune systems and how they interact to support or modulate NEC development.
© 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd.