Reactivity of infiltrating T lymphocytes with microbial antigens in Crohn's disease

Lancet. 1991 Nov 16;338(8777):1238-9. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(91)92104-a.


Intestinal T lymphocytes are normally unresponsive to microbial and recall antigens in vitro, whereas the same antigens induce strong immune responses in peripheral-blood-derived T cells. We obtained T lymphocytes from peripheral blood and from the non-inflamed and inflamed intestinal mucosa of 6 patients (3 male, 3 female; mean age 33 years) with Crohn's disease. The T cells were stimulated in vitro with a range of microbial antigens. Whereas T cells from normal mucosa were unresponsive, those from inflamed mucosa had a proliferative response comparable to that of the peripheral-blood-derived T cells. These findings suggest that physiologic unresponsiveness to luminal antigens is abrogated in the inflammatory lesions of Crohn's disease patients. Infiltrating T lymphocytes may therefore mediate chronic inflammation on encountering the many antigens present in the intestine.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, Bacterial / immunology*
  • Crohn Disease / immunology*
  • Escherichia coli / immunology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antigens, Bacterial