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Am J Pathol. 2010 Apr;176(4):1816-27. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.090461. Epub 2010 Feb 4.

The CD40-CD40L pathway contributes to the proinflammatory function of intestinal epithelial cells in inflammatory bowel disease.

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Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein, Ratzeburger Allee 160, D-23538 Lübeck, Germany.


In inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) are involved in the outbalanced immune responses toward luminal antigens. However, the signals responsible for this proinflammatory capacity of IECs in IBD remain unclear. The CD40/CD40L interaction activates various pathways in immune and nonimmune cells related to inflammation and was shown to be critical for the development of IBD. Here we demonstrate CD40 expression within IECs during active IBD. Endoscopically obtained biopsies taken from Crohn's disease (n = 112) and ulcerative colitis patients (n = 67) consistently showed immunofluorescence staining for CD40 in IECs of inflamed ileal or colonic mucosa. In noninvolved mucosa during active disease, tissue obtained during Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis in remission and biopsies from healthy controls (n = 38) IECs almost entirely lacked CD40 staining. Flow cytometry and RT-PCR analysis using different intestinal epithelial cell lines (HT29, SW480, and T84) showed IFN-gamma to effectively induce CD40 in IECs. Cells were virtually unresponsive to LPS or whole E. coli regarding CD40 expression. In addition, a moderate induction of CD40 was found in response to TNF-alpha, which exerted synergistical effects with IFN-gamma. CD40 ligation by CD40L-transfected murine fibroblasts or soluble CD40L increased the secretion of IL-8 in IFN-gamma pretreated HT29 cells. Our findings provide evidence for the epithelial expression and modulation of CD40 in IBD-affected mucosa and indicate its involvement in the proinflammatory function of IECs.

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