Background: Substantial evidence implicates the neuropeptide substance P (SP) in mucosal immunoinflammatory responses. Autoradiographic studies have suggested a disturbance in SP receptor expression in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Aims: Because of technical limitations such as poor cellular resolution with autoradiography, we used molecular methods to specifically localise the cellular expression of the neurokinin-1 receptor (NK-1R) in IBD colon, and to quantitate NK-1R mRNA expression levels therein.
Methods: In situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry were used to localise NK-1R mRNA and protein, respectively, in normal, ulcerative colitis (UC), and Crohn's disease (CD) colonic resections. NK-1R mRNA expression levels of normal, UC, and CD mucosal biopsies were quantitated by competitive reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.
Results: NK-1R expression was localised to lamina propria mononuclear cells, epithelium, submucosal vasculature, smooth muscle, and myenteric plexus of normal and IBD colon. No ectopic NK-1R expression was observed in IBD. However, we found increased numbers of NK-1R expressing lymphoid cells in IBD tissue, aberrant negative epithelial expression of NK-1R in UC, and increased expression of NK-1R in CD myenteric plexus. Quantitation of NK-1R mRNA expression in IBD colonic mucosal biopsies revealed marked upregulation of NK-1R mRNA levels compared with non-inflamed mucosal expression levels (p<0.01).
Conclusions: This report demonstrates the strategic localisation and upregulation of NK-1R expression in IBD colon, and thereby suggests the involvement of substance P in the pathophysiological symptoms of IBD.