Intestinal dendritic cells and epithelial barrier dysfunction in Crohn's disease

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2009 Mar;15(3):436-53. doi: 10.1002/ibd.20660.


Crohn's disease (CD) is a chronic gastrointestinal inflammatory disorder considered to be the result of an inappropriate and exaggerated mucosal immune reaction to yet undefined triggers from the gut flora in genetically predisposed individuals. This inflammatory phenomenon has been characterized by an adaptive T-cell response in addition to an abnormal function of the innate immune system. Dendritic cells (DCs) are constituents of this innate system, inducing T-cell activation via antigen presentation. In the gut, mucosal DCs are separated from the luminal milieu by a monolayer of cylindrical epithelial cells that forms an anatomical and physiological barrier that controls the normal traffic of antigens between both compartments. An imbalance of colonic and ileal DC distribution in tissues from CD patients as well as functional differences between DCs isolated from normal and diseased intestinal samples have been demonstrated. Moreover, a gut barrier defect in the para- and transepithelial routes in addition to a significant reduction in the intestinal secretion of epithelial products involved in barrier function has been well documented in CD. Therefore, this may expose the diseased mucosa to overwhelming amounts of antigens, resulting in abnormal DC activation and a subsequent imbalance in their distribution. In conclusion, this review provides a summary of relevant progress in CD, intestinal epithelial permeability, and DCs highlighting a potential relationship between increased epithelial permeability and abnormal DC distribution during the pathogenesis of intestinal inflammation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / physiology*
  • Crohn Disease / immunology
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism*
  • Crohn Disease / pathology
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology*