Background: The cytokine network in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a complex, dynamic system that plays an important role in regulating mucosal innate and adaptive immune responses. While several studies have been done to evaluate immunomodulatory profiles in murine IBD, they have been limited to a relatively small number of cytokines that do not take into account its dependency of the interplay of multiple factors, and therefore the diagnostic potential of their cytokine profiles have been inconclusive.
Methods: A novel approach of comprehensive serum multiplex cytokine profiling with biometric immunosandwich ELISA's was used to describe the modulation of 16 Th1, Th2, Th17 cytokines and chemokines in both acute and chronic murine models of DSS and TNBS-induced colitis. Advanced multivariate discriminant functional analyses (DFA) was used to identify statistically interrelated sets of variables with the most significant power to discriminate among the groups. Profiles of multiple cytokines seen systemically were also validated locally in colonic mucosa using Western blot analysis and fluorescent immunohistochemistry.
Results: Distinctive disease-specific cytokine profiles were identified with significant correlations to disease activity and duration of disease. TNBS colitis exhibits heightened Th1-Th17 response (increased IL-12 and IL-17) as the disease becomes chronic. In contrast, DSS colitis switches from a Th1-Th17-mediated acute inflammation (increased TNF-alpha, IL6, IL-17, and KC) to a predominant Th2-mediated inflammatory response (increase in IL-4 and IL-10 and concomitant decrease in TNF-alpha, IL6, IL-17, and KC) in the chronic state. Moreover, DFA identified discriminatory cytokine profiles that can be sufficiently used to distinguish unaffected controls from diseases, and one disease type from another. IL-6 and IL-12 stratified gender-associated disease activity in chronic colitis.
Conclusions: Our studies provide insight into disease immunopathogenesis and illustrate the significant potential of utilizing multiplex cytokine profiles and bioinformatics as diagnostic tools in IBD.