The role of CD4+ lymphocytes in the susceptibility of mice to stress-induced reactivation of experimental colitis

Nat Med. 1999 Oct;5(10):1178-82. doi: 10.1038/13503.


Idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic relapsing condition. The role of stress in causing relapses of inflammatory bowel disease remains controversial. We now show that colitis induced in mice by dinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (DNBS) resolves by 6 weeks, but can subsequently be reactivated by stress plus a sub-threshold dose of DNBS, but not by DNBS alone. Stress reduced colonic mucin and increased colon permeability. Susceptibility to reactivation by stress required CD4+ lymphocytes and could be adoptively transferred. We conclude that stress reactivates experimental colitis by facilitating entry of luminal contents that activate previously sensitized CD4 cells in the colon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adoptive Transfer
  • Animals
  • CD4 Antigens / genetics
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes*
  • CD8 Antigens / genetics
  • Colitis / immunology*
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, SCID
  • Mucins / metabolism
  • Permeability
  • Recurrence
  • Stress, Physiological / immunology*


  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens
  • Mucins