ATF4 Deficiency Promotes Intestinal Inflammation in Mice by Reducing Uptake of Glutamine and Expression of Antimicrobial Peptides

Xiaoming Hu, Jiali Deng, Tianming Yu, Shanghai Chen, Yadong Ge, Ziheng Zhou, Yajie Guo, Hao Ying, Qiwei Zhai, Yan Chen, Feixiang Yuan, Yuguo Niu, Weigang Shu, Huimin Chen, Caiyun Ma, Zhanju Liu, Feifan Guo
Gastroenterology 2018 November 16

BACKGROUND & AIMS: Activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) regulates genes involved in the inflammatory response, amino acid metabolism, autophagy, and endoplasmic reticulum stress. We investigated whether its activity is altered in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) and mice with enterocolitis.

METHODS: We obtained biopsy samples during endoscopy from inflamed and/or uninflamed regions of colon from 21 patients with active CD, 22 patients with active UC, and 38 individuals without IBD (controls), and of ileum from 19 patients with active CD and 8 individuals without IBD in China. Mice with disruption of Atf4 specifically in intestinal epithelial cells (Atf4ΔIEC mice) and Atf4-floxed mice (controls) were given dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) to induce colitis. Some mice were given injections of recombinant defensin alpha 1 (DEFA1) and supplementation of L-alanyl-glutamine or glutamine in drinking water. Human and mouse ileal and colon tissues were analyzed by quantitative real-time PCR, immunoblots, and immunohistochemistry. Serum and IEC amino acids were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Levels of ATF4 were knocked down in IEC-18 cells with small interfering RNAs. Microbiomes were analyzed in ileal feces from mice using 16S ribosomal DNA sequencing.

RESULTS: Levels of ATF4 were significantly decreased in inflamed intestinal mucosa from patients with active CD or active UC, compared with uninflamed regions or intestinal mucosa from controls. ATF4 was also decreased in colonic epithelia from mice with colitis to mice without colitis. Atf4ΔIEC mice developed spontaneous enterocolitis, and colitis of greater severity than control mice following administration of DSS. Atf4ΔIEC mice had decreased serum levels of glutamine and reduced levels of antimicrobial peptides, such as Defa1, Defa4, Defa5, Camp and Lyz1 in ileal Paneth cells. Atf4ΔIEC mice had alterations in ileal microbiomes, compared to control mice; these changes were reversed by administration of glutamine. Injections of DEFA1 reduced the severity of spontaneous enteritis and DSS-induced colitis in Atf4ΔIEC mice. We found that expression of solute carrier family 1 member 5 (SLC1A5), a glutamine transporter, was directly regulated by ATF4 in cell lines. Overexpression of SLC1A5 in IEC-18 or primary IEC cells increased glutamine uptake and expression of antimicrobial peptides. Knockdown of ATF4 in IEC-18 cells increased expression of inflammatory cytokines, whereas overexpression of SLC1A5 in the knockdown cells reduced cytokine expression. Levels of SLC1A5 were decreased in inflamed intestinal mucosa of patients with CD and UC and correlated with levels of ATF4.

CONCLUSIONS: Levels of ATF4 are decreased in inflamed intestinal mucosa from patients with active CD or UC. In mice, ATF4 deficiency reduces glutamine uptake by intestinal epithelial cells and expression of antimicrobial peptides by decreasing transcription of Slc1a5. ATF4 might therefore be a target for the treatment of IBD.

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