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Scand J Gastroenterol. 2003 Feb;38(2):180-5.

Upregulation of interleukin-12 and -17 in active inflammatory bowel disease.

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  • 1Dept. of Gastroenterology C, Herlev Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Herlev, Denmark.



Cytokines are essential mediators of the intestinal inflammation during active episodes of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Interleukin (IL)-12 and IL-17 are potent immunoregulatory cytokines whose roles in the pathogenesis of IBD are unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the colonic expression of IL-12 and IL-17 genes in IBD.


Fifty-one patients (22 with ulcerative colitis (UC), 17 with Crohn disease (CD), and 12 controls) who underwent colonoscopy were included. IBD disease activity was determined using a clinical grading scale. The degree of inflammation, as well as the content of CD4+ T cells (synthesizing IL-17) and CD68+ macrophages (synthesizing IL-12) in colonic biopsies, was determined. The amounts of IL-12 and IL-17 mRNA were assessed by RT-PCR, using GAPDH as an internal standard.


In colonic specimens, IL-17 mRNA expression was increased in moderately and severely active UC (P = 0.03) and in all degrees of activity in CD (P < 0.04). Levels of IL-12 mRNA were upregulated in both active UC and active CD compared to controls (P < 0.02). In cases of remission, IL-12 mRNA expression was similar to that found in control samples. Compared to controls, histological examination showed significant differences in signs of chronic and acute inflammation in UC (P < 0.01) and CD (P < 0.02), revealing a high correlation between clinical disease activity and histological scoring (r2 = 0.92, P < 0.005). Whereas CD4+ T cells were observed in lymphocyte aggregates located profound in the lamina propria, CD68+ macrophages were primarily found just underneath the surface epithelium. The density of CD4+ and CD68+ cells correlated significantly with the amounts of IL-17 and IL-12 mRNA, respectively (P < 0.05).


The expression of both IL-12 and IL-17 mRNA is induced in active UC and CD and may thus be involved in sustaining the intestinal inflammation in IBD. Inhibition of IL-12 or IL-17 might be future therapeutic targets in IBD.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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