Targeting Mitochondrial Damage as a Therapeutic for Ileal Crohn's Disease

Cells. 2021 May 29;10(6):1349. doi: 10.3390/cells10061349.


Paneth cell defects in Crohn's disease (CD) patients (called the Type I phenotype) are associated with worse clinical outcomes. Recent studies have implicated mitochondrial dysfunction in Paneth cells as a mediator of ileitis in mice. We hypothesized that CD Paneth cells exhibit impaired mitochondrial health and that mitochondrial-targeted therapeutics may provide a novel strategy for ileal CD. Terminal ileal mucosal biopsies from adult CD and non-IBD patients were characterized for Paneth cell phenotyping and mitochondrial damage. To demonstrate the response of mitochondrial-targeted therapeutics in CD, biopsies were treated with vehicle or Mito-Tempo, a mitochondrial-targeted antioxidant, and RNA transcriptome was analyzed. During active CD inflammation, the epithelium exhibited mitochondrial damage evident in Paneth cells, goblet cells, and enterocytes. Independent of inflammation, Paneth cells in Type I CD patients exhibited mitochondrial damage. Mito-Tempo normalized the expression of interleukin (IL)-17/IL-23, lipid metabolism, and apoptotic gene signatures in CD patients to non-IBD levels. When stratified by Paneth cell phenotype, the global tissue response to Mito-Tempo in Type I patients was associated with innate immune, lipid metabolism, and G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) gene signatures. Targeting impaired mitochondria as an underlying contributor to inflammation provides a novel treatment approach for CD.

Keywords: Type I Paneth cell phenotype; antioxidant; epithelial cells; inflammatory bowel diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Crohn Disease / drug therapy*
  • Crohn Disease / metabolism*
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Paneth Cells / pathology
  • Phenotype


  • Antioxidants