Defence capabilities of human intestinal epithelial cells

University dissertation from Umeå : Umeå universitet

Abstract: The epithelial cells lining the intestinal mucosa separate the underlying tissue from components of the intestinal lumen. Innate immunity mediated by intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) provides rapid protective functions against microorganisms. Innate immunity also participates in orchestrating adaptive immunity. Key components in innate defence are defensins.To study the production of defensins and how it is affected by intestinal inflammation IECs were isolated from the small and large intestines of patients suffering from ulcerative colitis (UC), Crohn´s disease (MbC), celiac disease (CD), and from controls, and analyzed by quantitative RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) and immunoflow cytometry. Defensin expressing cells were also studied by in situ hybridization and immunohistochemistry.Normally, only small intestinal Paneth cells express human ?-defensin 5 (HD-5) and HD-6. In UC colon IECs, HD-5, HD-6, and lysozyme mRNAs were expressed at high levels. In Crohn´s colitis colon the levels of HD-5 and lysozyme mRNAs were also increased although not to the same extent as in UC. No increase was detected in MbC with ileal localization. Metaplastic Paneth cell differentiation in UC colon was primarily responsible for the expression of the antimicrobial components. Human ?-defensin 1 (hBD-1) mRNA was more abundant in large than in small intestine of controls, and remained unchanged in UC and MbC. hBD-2 mRNA was barely detectable in normal intestine and was induced in UC IECs but not in MbC IECs. mRNAs for the recently discovered hBD-3 and hBD-4, were detected in IECs from both small and large intestine. Both hBD-3 and hBD-4 mRNA were significantly increased in IECs of UC patients but not of MbC patients. Bacteria and IL-1? induced hBD-2 but not hBD-1 mRNA in colon carcinoma cell lines. IFN-?, but not TNF-? or IL-1?, augmented hBD-3 expression in these cells, while none of the agents induced hBD-4. High antimicrobial activity of IECs in UC may be a consequence of changes in the epithelial lining, which permit the adherence of microorganisms.Unexpectedly, in situ hybridization revealed expression of hBD-3 and hBD-4 mRNAs by numerous lamina propria cells in colonic tissue from UC patients. These cells were identified as plasma cells (CD138+). hBD-3 and hBD-4 mRNAs were also demonstrated in the plasmacytoma cell line U266. This is the first demonstration of defensins in plasma cells.The four prominent constituents of the intestinal glycocalyx, carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), CEA cell adhesion molecule 1 (CEACAM1), CEACAM6 and CEACAM7 all seem to play a critical role in innate defence of the intestinal mucosa by trapping and expelling microorganisms at the epithelial surface. The inducibility of these molecules in colonic epithelial cell lines was analyzed by qRT-PCR, immunoflow cytometry, and immunoelectron microscopy. IFN-g but not bacteria, LPS, TNF-?, or IL-1? modified the expression of CEA, CEACAM1 and CEACAM6. None of these agents modified CEACAM7 expression. IFN-? was shown to have two effects: a direct effect on CEACAM1 transcription, and promotion of cell differentiation resulting in increased CEA and CEACAM6 and decreased CEACAM7 expression.Scanning electron microscopy of jejunal biopsies from children with CD revealed the presence of rod shaped bacteria in ~40% of patients with active CD, but only in 2% of controls. 19% of treated CD patients still had adhering bacteria. Presence of bacteria is not due to lack of antimicrobial factors. In fact, HD-5, HD-6, and lysozyme mRNA levels were significantly increased in IECs of patients with active CD. hBD-1 and hBD-2 were unchanged. Lack of induction of hBD-2 may reflect disturbed signalling in IECs of CD patients. Analysis of CEA and CEACAM1 mRNA/protein expression showed no differences between CD patients and controls. Analysis of the mucins MUC2 and MUC3 revealed significantly increased MUC2 levels in active disease and unchanged MUC3. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated goblet cell metaplasia as well as staining of the apical portion of absorptive cells. Glycosylation status of proteins was studied by lectin histochemistry. Goblet cells in the mucosa of CD patients were stained by the lectin UEAI. This was not seen in controls. The lectin PNA stained the glycocalyx of controls but not that of CD patients. Thus, unique carbohydrate structures of the glycocalyx/mucous layer are likely discriminating features of CD patients and may allow bacterial binding.We conclude that the intestinal epithelium is heavily involved in the innate defence of the mucosa and that its reactive pattern is affected by intestinal inflammation.Keywords: human intestinal mucosa; epithelial cells; innate immunity; defensin; ulcerative colitis; Crohn´s disease; celiac disease; glyco?calyx; mucin