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JCI Insight. 2016 Jun 2;1(8):e86907. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.86907.

Paneth cell defects in Crohn's disease patients promote dysbiosis.

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Department of Pathology and Immunology, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Gastroenterology, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Genome Technology Access Center, Washington University, Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Quantitative Health Services, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
The F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Gastrointestinal Unit and Center for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Paneth cell dysfunction has been implicated in a subset of Crohn's disease (CD) patients. We previously stratified clinical outcomes of CD patients by using Paneth cell phenotypes, which we defined by the intracellular distribution of antimicrobial proteins. Animal studies suggest that Paneth cells shape the intestinal microbiome. However, it is unclear whether Paneth cell phenotypes alter the microbiome complexity in CD subjects. Therefore, we analyzed the correlation of Paneth cell phenotypes with mucosal microbiome composition and ileal RNA expression in pediatric CD and noninflammatory bowel disease (non-IBD) patients.


Pediatric CD (n = 44) and non-IBD (n = 62) patients aged 4 to 18 were recruited prior to routine endoscopic biopsy. Ileal mucosal samples were analyzed for Paneth cell phenotypes, mucosal microbiome composition, and RNA transcriptome.


The prevalence of abnormal Paneth cells was higher in pediatric versus adult CD cohorts. For pediatric CD patients, those with abnormal Paneth cells showed significant changes in their ileal mucosal microbiome, highlighted by reduced protective microbes and enriched proinflammatory microbes. Ileal transcriptome profiles showed reduced transcripts for genes that control oxidative phosphorylation in CD patients with abnormal Paneth cells. These transcriptional changes in turn were correlated with specific microbiome alterations. In non-IBD patients, a subset contained abnormal Paneth cells. However, this subset was not associated with alterations in the microbiome or host transcriptome.


Paneth cell abnormalities in human subjects are associated with mucosal dysbiosis in the context of CD, and these changes are associated with alterations in oxidative phosphorylation, potentially in a feedback loop.


The research was funded by Helmsley Charitable Trust (to T.S. Stappenbeck, R.J. Xavier, and D.P.B. McGovern), Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (to N.H. Salzman, T.S. Stappenbeck, R.J. Xavier, and C. Huttenhower), and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation grant 2014103 (to T.C. Liu).

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