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J Crohns Colitis. 2018 Feb 28;12(3):355-368. doi: 10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjx147.

The Proton-activated Receptor GPR4 Modulates Intestinal Inflammation.

Author information

Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Physiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Surgical Pathology, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Laboratory of Applied Immunobiology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Institute of Experimental Immunology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Department of Immunology, University Hospital Zurich, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Background and Aims:

During active inflammation, intraluminal intestinal pH is decreased in patients with inflammatory bowel disease [IBD]. Acidic pH may play a role in IBD pathophysiology. Recently, proton-sensing G-protein coupled receptors were identified, including GPR4, OGR1 [GPR68], and TDAG8 [GPR65]. We investigated whether GPR4 is involved in intestinal inflammation.


The role of GPR4 was assessed in murine colitis models by chronic dextran sulphate sodium [DSS] administration and by cross-breeding into an IL-10 deficient background for development of spontaneous colitis. Colitis severity was assessed by body weight, colonoscopy, colon length, histological score, cytokine mRNA expression, and myeloperoxidase [MPO] activity. In the spontaneous Il-10-/- colitis model, the incidence of rectal prolapse and characteristics of lamina propria leukocytes [LPLs] were analysed.


Gpr4-/- mice showed reduced body weight loss and histology score after induction of chronic DSS colitis. In Gpr4-/-/Il-10-/- double knock-outs, the onset and progression of rectal prolapse were significantly delayed and mitigated compared with Gpr4+/+/Il-10-/- mice. Double knock-out mice showed lower histology scores, MPO activity, CD4+ T helper cell infiltration, IFN-γ, iNOS, MCP-1 [CCL2], CXCL1, and CXCL2 expression compared with controls. In colon, GPR4 mRNA was detected in endothelial cells, some smooth muscle cells, and some macrophages.


Absence of GPR4 ameliorates colitis in IBD animal models, indicating an important regulatory role in mucosal inflammation, thus providing a new link between tissue pH and the immune system. Therapeutic inhibition of GPR4 may be beneficial for the treatment of IBD.

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