Background: A T-cell-mediated immune response may be responsible for the enteropathy seen in coeliac disease (CD), but it is unclear whether this is initiated in the epithelium or the lamina propria. We studied the site and number of cells expressing mRNA encoding the cytokines interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-6, and tumour necrosis factor-alpha in jejunal biopsy specimens from patients with untreated or treated CD and normal controls.
Methods: Tissue sections were hybridized with 35S-labelled DNA oligonucleotide probes specific for each cytokine RNA sequence. Positive cells were counted in the lamina propria and epithelial compartments.
Results: For each cytokine significantly greater numbers of positive cells were found in the lamina propria of untreated CD patients. Few positive cells were detected in the epithelium of all three groups.
Conclusions: This study shows that the immune response to gliadin appears to occur in the lamina propria and supports cell-mediated immunity in the pathogenesis of coeliac disease.