Mucosal reactivity to cow's milk protein in coeliac disease

Clin Exp Immunol. 2007 Mar;147(3):449-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2007.03298.x.


Patients with coeliac disease (CD) on a gluten-free diet may still have gastrointestinal symptoms. On clinical grounds cow's milk (CM) protein sensitivity may be suspected. Here, using rectal protein challenge, we investigated the local inflammatory reaction to gluten and CM protein in adult patients with CD in remission. Rectal challenges with wheat gluten and dried CM powder were performed in 20 patients with CD and 15 healthy controls. Fifteen hours after challenge the mucosal reaction was recorded by the mucosal patch technique with measurements of local release of neutrophil and eosinophil granule constituents; myeloperoxidase (MPO) and eosinophil cationic protein (ECP). We measured the mucosal production of nitric oxide (NO) simultaneously. Six of the patients who reacted to CM were also challenged with alpha-lactalbumin and casein. In 18 of 20 patients gluten challenge induced neutrophil activation defined as increased MPO release and increased NO synthesis. Ten of these 20 patients showed a similarly strong inflammatory reaction to CM challenge. Six of the CM sensitive patients were challenged with specific CM proteins: casein and alpha-lactalbumin. Casein, in contrast to alpha-lactalbumin, induced an inflammatory response similar to that produced by CM. A mucosal inflammatory response similar to that elicited by gluten was produced by CM protein in about 50% of the patients with coeliac disease. Casein, in particular, seems to be involved in this reaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Rectal
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Caseins / immunology
  • Cattle
  • Celiac Disease / etiology*
  • Celiac Disease / immunology
  • Female
  • Glutens / administration & dosage
  • Glutens / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Lactalbumin / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / complications*
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / diagnosis
  • Milk Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Milk Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Milk Proteins / immunology*
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Peroxidase / metabolism


  • Caseins
  • Immunoglobulin A
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Milk Proteins
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Glutens
  • Lactalbumin
  • Peroxidase