Multiomic analysis reveals cellular and epigenetic plasticity in intestinal pouches of ulcerative colitis patients

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Nov 13:2023.11.11.23298309. doi: 10.1101/2023.11.11.23298309.


Background & aims: Total proctocolectomy with ileal pouch anal anastomosis (IPAA) is the standard of care for patients with severe treatment resistant ulcerative colitis (UC). Despite improvements in patient outcomes, about 50% of patients will develop inflammation of the pouch within 1-2 years following surgery. Establishment of UC pouches is associated with profound histological changes of the mucosa. A detailed characterization of these changes on a cellular and molecular level is crucial for an improved understanding of pouch physiology and diseases management.

Methods: We generated cell-type-resolved transcriptional and epigenetic atlases of UC pouches using scRNA-seq and scATAC-seq data from paired biopsy samples from the ileal pouch and ileal segment above the pouch (pre-pouch) of UC-IPAA patients (n=6, female=2) without symptoms. We also collected data from paired biopsies of the terminal ileum (TI) and ascending colon (AC) from healthy controls (n=6, female=3).

Results: We identified novel populations of colon-like absorptive and secretory epithelial cells, constituting a significant proportion of the epithelial cell fraction in the pouch but not in matched pre-pouch samples. Pouch-specific enterocytes expressed colon-specific genes, including CEACAM5, CA2. However, in contrast to normal colonic epithelium, these cells also expressed a range of inflammatory and secretory genes, similar to previously detected gene expression signatures in IBD patients. Comparison to longitudinal bulk RNA-seq data from UC pouches demonstrated that colon-like epithelial cells are present early after pouch functionalization and independently of subsequent pouchitis. Finally, single cell chromatin accessibility revealed activation colonic transcriptional regulators, including CDX1, NFIA, and EHF.

Conclusion: UC pouches are characterized by partial colonic metaplasia of the epithelium. These data constitute a resource of transcriptomic and epigenetic signatures of cell populations in the pouch and provide an anchor for understanding the underlying molecular mechanisms of pouchitis.

Publication types

  • Preprint