Multi-scale in vivo systems analysis reveals the influence of immune cells on TNF-α-induced apoptosis in the intestinal epithelium

PLoS Biol. 2012;10(9):e1001393. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001393. Epub 2012 Sep 25.


Intestinal epithelial cells exist within a complex environment that affects how they interpret and respond to stimuli. We have applied a multi-scale in vivo systems approach to understand how intestinal immune cells communicate with epithelial cells to regulate responses to inflammatory signals. Multivariate modeling analysis of a large dataset composed of phospho-signals, cytokines, and immune cell populations within the intestine revealed an intimate relationship between immune cells and the epithelial response to TNF-α. Ablation of lymphocytes in the intestine prompted a decrease in the expression of MCP-1, which in turn increased the steady state number of intestinal plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs). This change in the immune compartment affected the intestinal cytokine milieu and subsequent epithelial cell signaling network, with cells becoming hypersensitive to TNF-α-induced apoptosis in a way that could be predicted by mathematical modeling. In summary, we have uncovered a novel cellular network that regulates the response of intestinal epithelial cells to inflammatory stimuli in an in vivo setting.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Chemokine CCL2 / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / drug effects
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological
  • Neutralization Tests
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology*


  • Ccl2 protein, mouse
  • Chemokine CCL2
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma