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Immunology. 2009 Nov;128(3):351-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2009.03110.x.

Production of interferon-gamma by activated T-cell receptor-alphabeta CD8alphabeta intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes is required and sufficient for disruption of the intestinal barrier integrity.

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Institute of Pathology, Experimental Pathology, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


Maintenance of intestinal epithelial barrier function is of vital importance in preventing uncontrolled influx of antigens and the potentially ensuing inflammatory disorders. Intestinal intraepithelial lymphocytes (IEL) are in intimate contact with epithelial cells and may critically regulate the epithelial barrier integrity. While a preserving impact has been ascribed to the T-cell receptor (TCR)-gammadelta subset of IEL, IEL have also been shown to attenuate the barrier function. The present study sought to clarify the effects of IEL by specifically investigating the influence of the TCR-alphabeta CD8alphabeta and TCR-alphabeta CD8alphaalpha subsets of IEL on the intestinal epithelial barrier integrity. To this end, an in vitro coculture system of the murine intestinal crypt-derived cell-line mIC(cl2) and syngeneic ex vivo isolated IEL was employed. Epithelial integrity was assessed by analysis of transepithelial resistance (TER) and paracellular flux of fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated (FITC-) dextran. The TCR-alphabeta CD8alphaalpha IEL and resting TCR-alphabeta CD8alphabeta IEL did not affect TER of mIC(cl2) or flux of FITC-dextran. In contrast, activated TCR-alphabeta CD8alphabeta IEL clearly disrupted the integrity of the mIC(cl2) monolayer. No disrupting effect was seen with activated TCR-alphabeta CD8alphabeta IEL from interferon-gamma knockout mice. These findings demonstrate that secretion of interferon-gamma by activated TCR-alphabeta CD8alphabeta IEL is strictly required and also sufficient for disrupting the intestinal epithelial barrier function.

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