Background & aims: The pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is believed to involve an altered balance between effector and regulatory T cells. Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a ligand-dependent transcription factor that mediates the toxicity of dioxins, controls T-cell responses. We investigated the role of AhR in inflammation and pathogenesis of IBD in humans and mouse models.
Methods: AhR expression was evaluated in intestinal tissue samples from patients with IBD and controls by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and flow cytometry. Intestinal lamina propria mononuclear cells (LPMCs) were activated in the presence or absence of the AhR agonist 6-formylindolo(3, 2-b)carbazole (Ficz). Colitis was induced in mice using trinitrobenzene sulfonic acid (TNBS), dextran sulfate sodium (DSS), or T-cell transfer. Mice were given injections of Ficz or the AhR antagonist 2-metyl-2H-pyrazole-3-carboxylic acid; some mice first received injections of a blocking antibody against interleukin (IL)-22. Cytokines were quantified by real-time PCR and flow cytometry.
Results: Intestine tissue from patients with IBD expressed significantly less AhR than controls. In LPMCs from patients with IBD, incubation with Ficz reduced levels of interferon gamma (IFN)-γ and up-regulated IL-22. Mice injected with Ficz were protected against TNBS-, DSS-, and T-cell transfer-induced colitis; they had marked down-regulation of inflammatory cytokines and induction of IL-22. Mice given AhR antagonist produced more inflammatory cytokines and less IL-22 and developed a severe colitis. Neutralization of endogenous IL-22 disrupted the protective effect of Ficz on TNBS-induced colitis.
Conclusions: AhR is down-regulated in intestinal tissue of patients with IBD; AhR signaling, via IL-22, inhibits inflammation and colitis in the gastrointestinal tract of mice. AhR-related compounds might be developed to treat patients with IBDs.
Copyright © 2011 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.