JOURNAL ARTICLE

Downregulation of epithelial apoptosis and barrier repair in active Crohn's disease by tumour necrosis factor alpha antibody treatment

S Zeissig, C Bojarski, N Buergel, J Mankertz, M Zeitz, M Fromm, J D Schulzke
Gut 2004, 53 (9): 1295-302
15306588

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Barrier dysfunction is an important feature contributing to inflammation and diarrhoea in Crohn's disease (CD). Recently, tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) antibodies were recognised as effective in steroid refractory CD. The aim of this study was to characterise the effects of this therapy on the epithelial barrier.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Forceps biopsies were obtained from the sigmoid colon before and 14 days after TNF-alpha antibody therapy in 11 patients treated for chronic active CD (Crohn's disease activity index >150). Epithelial apoptoses were measured after terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick end labelling (TUNEL) and 4',6-diamidino-2-phenylindole staining. Epithelial resistance was determined by alternating current impedance analysis in miniaturised Ussing chambers. Occludin, claudin 1, and claudin 4 expression was quantified in immunoblots.

RESULTS: The epithelial apoptotic ratio was 2.1 (0.2)% in controls and increased to 5.3 (1.0)% in CD. TNF-alpha antibody therapy decreased the apoptotic ratio to 2.9 (1.0)% (normalised in 10 of 11 patients). In parallel, epithelial resistance was lower in CD than in controls (24 (3) v 42 (3) Omegaxcm(2)) and improved to 34 (3) Omegaxcm(2) after therapy. Occludin, claudin 1, and claudin 4 were not affected by TNF-alpha antibody therapy. In support of a functional role of epithelial apoptoses in CD, a similar decrease in resistance of -40% was observed when the apoptotic rate was selectively upregulated from 2.6% to 5.4% with camptothecin in HT-29/B6 cells.

CONCLUSIONS: Epithelial apoptoses were upregulated in the colon in CD and restored to normal in 10 of 11 patients by TNF-alpha antibody therapy. This is the structural correlate of epithelial barrier dysfunction measured as epithelial resistance while expression of tight junction proteins did not contribute to this therapeutic effect.

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