The phytohormone abscisic acid (ABA) has been shown to be effective in ameliorating chronic and acute inflammation. The objective of this study was to investigate whether ABA's anti-inflammatory efficacy in the gut is dependent on peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) in T cells. PPARγ-expressing and T cell-specific PPARγ null mice were fed diets with or without ABA (100 mg/kg) for 35 days prior to challenge with 2.5% dextran sodium sulfate. The severity of clinical disease was assessed daily, and mice were euthanized on Day 7 of the dextran sodium sulfate challenge. Colonic inflammation was assessed through macroscopic and histopathological examination of inflammatory lesions and real-time quantitative RT-PCR-based quantification of inflammatory genes. Flow cytometry was used to phenotypically characterize leukocyte populations in the blood and mesenteric lymph nodes. Colonic sections were stained immunohistochemically to determine the effect of ABA on colonic regulatory T (T(reg)) cells. ABA's beneficial effects on disease activity were completely abrogated in T cell-specific PPARγ null mice. Additionally, ABA improved colon histopathology, reduced blood F4/80(+)CD11b(+) monocytes, increased the percentage of CD4(+) T cells expressing the inhibitory molecule cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen 4 in blood and enhanced the number of T(reg) cells in the mesenteric lymph nodes and colons of PPARγ-expressing but not T cell-specific PPARγ null mice. We conclude that dietary ABA ameliorates experimental inflammatory bowel disease by enhancing T(reg) cell accumulation in the colonic lamina propria through a PPARγ-dependent mechanism.
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