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PLoS One. 2015 May 15;10(5):e0123498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123498. eCollection 2015.

The intestinal barrier in irritable bowel syndrome: subtype-specific effects of the systemic compartment in an in vitro model.

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Division of Gastroenterology-Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology and Metabolism-Maastricht University Medical Center+, Maastricht, The Netherlands.



Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder with multifactorial pathophysiology. Intestinal barrier may be altered, especially in diarrhea-predominant IBS (IBS-D). Several mediators may contribute to increased intestinal permeability in IBS.


We aimed to assess effects of tryptase and LPS on in vitro permeability using a 3-dimensional cell model after basolateral cell exposure. Furthermore, we assessed the extent to which these mediators in IBS plasma play a role in intestinal barrier function.


Caco-2 cells were grown in extracellular matrix to develop into polarized spheroids and were exposed to tryptase (10 - 50 mU), LPS (1 - 50 ng/mL) and two-fold diluted plasma samples of 7 patients with IBS-D, 7 with constipation-predominant IBS (IBS-C) and 7 healthy controls (HC). Barrier function was assessed by the flux of FITC-dextran (FD4) using live cell imaging. Furthermore, plasma tryptase and LPS were determined.


Tryptase (20 and 50 mU) and LPS (6.25 - 50 ng/mL) significantly increased Caco-2 permeability versus control (all P< 0.05). Plasma of IBS-D only showed significantly elevated median tryptase concentrations (7.1 [3.9 - 11.0] vs. 4.2 [2.2 - 7.0] vs. 4.2 [2.5 - 5.9] μg/mL; P<0.05) and LPS concentrations (3.65 [3.00 - 6.10] vs. 3.10 [2.60-3.80] vs. 2.65 [2.40 - 3.40] EU/ml; P< 0.05) vs. IBS-C and HC. Also, plasma of IBS-D increased Caco-2 permeability versus HC (0.14450 ± 0.00472 vs. 0.00021 ± 0.00003; P < 0.001), which was attenuated by selective inhibition of tryptase and LPS (P< 0.05).


Basolateral exposure of spheroids to plasma of IBS-D patients resulted in a significantly increased FD4 permeation, which was partially abolished by selective inhibition of tryptase and LPS. These findings point to a role of systemic tryptase and LPS in the epithelial barrier alterations observed in patients with IBS-D.

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