Olfactomedin-4 is a glycoprotein secreted into mucus in active IBD

J Crohns Colitis. 2012 May;6(4):425-34. doi: 10.1016/j.crohns.2011.09.013. Epub 2011 Nov 15.


Background: Olfactomedin-4 (OLFM4) is a glycoprotein characteristic of intestinal stem cells and apparently involved in mucosal defense of the stomach and colon. Here we studied its expression, regulation and function in IBD.

Methods: The expression of OLFM4, mucins Muc1 and Muc2, the goblet cell differentiation factor Hath1 and the proinflammatory cytokine IL-8 was measured in inflamed or noninflamed colon in IBD patients and controls. OLFM4 protein was located by immunohistochemistry, quantified by Dot Blot and its binding capacity to defensins HBD1-3 was investigated. The influence of bacteria with or without the Notch blocker dibenzazepine (DBZ) and of several cytokines on OLFM4 expression was determined in LS174T cells.

Results: OLFM4 mRNA and protein were significantly upregulated in inflamed CD (4.3 and 1.7-fold) and even more pronounced in UC (24.8 and 3.7-fold). OLFM4 expression was correlated to IL-8 but not to Hath1. In controls immunostaining was restricted to the lower crypts but in inflamed IBD it expanded up to the epithelial surface including the mucus. OLFM4 bound to HBD1-3 without profoundly inactivating these defensins. In LS174T-cells OLFM4 mRNA was significantly augmented after incubation with Escherichia coli K12, Escherichia coli Nissle and Bacteroides vulgatus. DBZ downregulated OLFM4 expression and blocked bacterial induction whereas IL-22 but not TNF-α was stimulatory.

Conclusions: OLFM4 is overexpressed in active IBD and secreted into mucus. The induction is triggered by bacteria through the Notch pathway and also by the cytokine IL-22. OLFM4 seems to be of functional relevance in IBD as a mucus component, possibly by binding defensins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / metabolism*
  • Colon / metabolism*
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor / genetics
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Mucus / metabolism*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • OLFM4 protein, human
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor