The aim of this study was to investigate the expression of leukocyte adhesion molecules and the number of lymphoid follicles in gut mucosa of patients with spondyloarthropathy (SpA) in comparison with controls, in search for early immune alterations in the development of SpA-related gut inflammation. Histological evaluation and immunohistochemistry were performed on the ileum and colon of 14 SpA patients without macroscopic or microscopic gut inflammation and those of 21 controls. Lymphoid follicles were counted and immunohistochemical staining for leukocyte adhesion molecules, lymphocyte subtypes, macrophages, and plasma cells was scored semi-quantitatively. The number of lymphoid follicles was increased in both the ileum (p < 0.01) and the colon (p < 0.01) of SpA patients. SpA ileum showed an increase in leukocytes expressing CD11c (p < 0.01), whereas CD11a(+) (p < 0.02) and VCAM-1(+) cells (p < 0.05) were increased in SpA colon. Macrophages, characterized by the expression of CD68, were more numerous in colonic mucosa from SpA patients (p < 0.05). The amount of lymphoid follicles and lamina propria mononuclear cells expressing CD11a, CD11c, and VCAM-1 was increased in non-inflamed gut mucosa from SpA patients. These findings might point to increased antigen handling and presentation and augmented maturation of naïve T cells towards memory T cells in the SpA gut, which supports the concept that the gut is involved in the pathogenesis of SpA.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.