Background/aims: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a heparin-binding glycoprotein with potent angiogenic, mitogenic and vascular permeability-enhancing activities specific for endothelial cells. Recent studies have shown significantly increased VEGF serum levels in patients with active Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. The origin of the circulating VEGF is not yet completely described. The present investigation examines the VEGF production of colonic mucosa in consideration of mucosal disease activity in patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
Methodology: Fifteen patients with inflammatory bowel disease were studied, 9 patients with Crohn's disease and 6 patients with ulcerative colitis. Biopsies were taken from endoscopically inflamed and non-inflamed colonic mucosa. Therefore, an analysis of the spontaneous VEGF production of cultured biopsies without stimulus and of the histological grade of inflammation scored on a scale of 0-3 (normal mucosa--severe chronic colitis) were performed. Eight patients with irritable bowel syndrome served as controls. VEGF levels in the supernatant of cultured mucosal biopsies were measured using an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: VEGF production is expressed as pg/mg wet weight of the biopsies. Inflamed mucosa of patients with active ulcerative colitis (16.27 +/- 10.39, p = 0.003, n = 6) and active Crohn's disease (9.88 +/- 5.98, p < 0.012, n = 9) showed a significantly higher spontaneous production of VEGF by colonic mucosa than normal mucosa of controls (3.16 +/- 1.63, n = 8). In addition, there was an increased unstimulated VEGF production by cultured inflamed mucosa of patients with Crohn's disease compared with non-inflamed mucosa (3.88 +/- 3.66, p < 0.015, n = 9). In both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, there was no significant difference between VEGF production by non-inflamed mucosa and normal mucosa of controls.
Conclusions: The present study identifies the intestinal mucosa as one of the origins of the elevated VEGF serum levels in patients with active inflammatory bowel disease and verifies the findings of recent studies about the importance of VEGF in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.