Background: Enteral nutrition is used to treat a subset of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. Because dietary factors may contribute to an aggressive immune response toward the intestinal microbiota in the disease susceptible host, we used TNFΔARE/WT mice to study the therapeutic effect of a semisynthetic experimental diet in the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease (CD)-like inflammation in the ileum.
Methods: TNFΔARE/WT mice were fed chow and experimental diets partially fortified with gluten in a dose and time-dependent manner. Histopathology, markers of inflammation, intraepithelial lymphocytes phenotypes, and antigen-specific reactivation of CD4⁺ T cells were determined.
Results: TNFΔARE/WT mice being transferred to an experimental diet with 7 but not with 10 or 14 weeks of age were protected from development of Crohn's disease-like ileitis. Although disease-related CD8αβ⁺ intraepithelial lymphocytes were increased irrespective of dietary intervention, the protective effect of experimental diet was associated with decreased expression of inflammation markers in ileal tissues. In addition, CD4⁺ T-cell reactivation in bacterial antigen-primed dendritic cell cocultures was not altered between semisynthetic and chow diet-fed TNFΔARE/WT mice, suggesting bacteria-independent mechanisms. Most importantly, gluten-fortified experimental diet induced chronic ileitis in TNFΔARE/WT mice, despite the fact that gluten-derived peptides failed to induce CD4⁺ T-cell activation. Reduced occludin expression levels suggest a negative role of gluten-fortified experimental diet on intestinal barrier integrity.
Conclusions: Crohn's disease-like ileitis can be prevented at early stages of disease development using a semisynthetic experimental diet. Gluten was identified as antigen-independent dietary factor relevant for the induction of chronic inflammation in the small intestine of TNFΔARE/WT mice.