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Int Immunol. 2007 Aug;19(8):993-1001. Epub 2007 Jul 28.

Concomitant increase of IL-10 and pro-inflammatory cytokines in intraepithelial lymphocyte subsets in celiac disease.

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Department of Clinical Microbiology, Umeå University, Sweden.


Celiac disease (CD) is a small intestinal enteropathy caused by permanent intolerance to wheat gluten. Active disease is characterized by a prominent cytokine response of intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) to gluten-containing diet with concomitant increase in expression of pro-inflammatory IFN-gamma and down-regulatory IL-10 without increase in tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) or transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1). The aim was to understand the local immune reaction by determining which intraepithelial T cell subsets produce the different cytokines. The three major IEL-subsets gammadeltaIELs, CD4(+)alphabetaIELs and CD8(+)alphabetaIELs, as well as CD94(+)CD8(+)alphabetaIELs, selectively expanded in active CD, were retrieved from small intestinal biopsies of children with active CD and controls and analyzed quantitatively for cytokine mRNA expression. In active CD, CD8(+)alphabetaIELs showed a significant increase in expression levels of both IFN-gamma and IL-10. CD8(+)alphabetaIELs were also the IEL subset with highest expression level per cell of both cytokines and constituted the cellular source for almost all IFN-gamma and most IL-10. Expression levels of both cytokines were higher in CD94(-)CD8(+)alphabetaIELs than CD94(+)CD8(+)alphabetaIELs. TNF-alpha levels were only increased in CD4(+)alphabetaIELs, which also showed the highest expression level per cell and constituted the major source of this cytokine. Interestingly, IL-10 was increased also in CD4(+)alphabetaIELs. Cytokine levels were low in gammadeltaIELs. 'Classical' CD94(-)CD8(+)alphabeta T cells within the epithelium are responsible for the excessive production of IFN-gamma, believed to drive the formation of intestinal lesions in active CD. Production of IL-10 may be a common feature of IELs producing pro-inflammatory cytokines, thereby attempting to limit inflammation in an autocrine fashion.

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