Interdependence between Chromogranin-A, Alternatively Activated Macrophages, Tight Junction Proteins and the Epithelial Functions. A Human and In-Vivo/In-Vitro Descriptive Study

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 27;21(21):7976. doi: 10.3390/ijms21217976.


Background: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is characterized by altered chromogranin-A (CHGA), alternatively activated macrophages (M2) and intestinal epithelial cells (IECs). We previously demonstrated that CHGA is implicated in colitis progression by regulating the macrophages. Here, we investigated the interplay between CHGA, M2, tight junctions (TJ) and IECs in an inflammatory environment. Methods: Correlations between CHGA mRNA expression of and TJ proteins mRNA expressions of (Occludin [OCLN], zonula occludens-1 [ZO1], Claudin-1 [CLDN1]), epithelial associated cytokines (interleukin [IL]-8, IL-18), and collagen (COL1A2) were determined in human colonic mucosal biopsies isolated from active UC and healthy patients. Acute UC-like colitis (5% dextran sulphate sodium [DSS], five days) was induced in Chga-C57BL/6-deficient (Chga-/-) and wild type (Chga+/+) mice. Col1a2 TJ proteins, Il-18 mRNA expression and collagen deposition were determined in whole colonic sections. Naïve Chga-/- and Chga+/+ peritoneal macrophages were isolated and exposed six hours to IL-4/IL-13 (20 ng/mL) to promote M2 and generate M2-conditioned supernatant. Caco-2 epithelial cells were cultured in the presence of Chga-/- and Chga+/+ non- or M2-conditioned supernatant for 24 h then exposed to 5% DSS for 24 h, and their functional properties were assessed. Results: In humans, CHGA mRNA correlated positively with COL1A2, IL-8 and IL-18, and negatively with TJ proteins mRNA markers. In the experimental model, the deletion of Chga reduced IL-18 mRNA and its release, COL1A2 mRNA and colonic collagen deposition, and maintained colonic TJ proteins. Chga-/- M2-conditioned supernatant protected caco-2 cells from DSS and oxidative stress injuries by improving caco-2 cells functions (proliferation, viability, wound healing) and by decreasing the release of IL-8 and IL-18 and by maintaining the levels of TJ proteins, and when compared with Chga+/+ M2-conditioned supernatant. Conclusions: CHGA contributes to the development of intestinal inflammation through the regulation of M2 and epithelial cells. Targeting CHGA may lead to novel biomarkers and therapeutic strategies in UC.

Keywords: alternatively activated macrophages; chromogranin-A; cytokines; epithelial repair; fibrosis; gut hormones; inflammatory bowel disease; intestinal epithelial cells; macrophages; tight junction; ulcerative colitis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caco-2 Cells
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chromogranin A / genetics*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / chemically induced
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / genetics
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / immunology*
  • Cytokines / genetics*
  • Dextran Sulfate / adverse effects
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-18 / genetics
  • Interleukin-8 / genetics
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Tight Junction Proteins / genetics*


  • CHGA protein, human
  • CXCL8 protein, human
  • Chromogranin A
  • Cytokines
  • IL18 protein, human
  • Interleukin-18
  • Interleukin-8
  • Tight Junction Proteins
  • chromogranin A, mouse
  • Dextran Sulfate