Background and purpose: The intestine is rich in peptidergic innervation, which modulates mucosal immune responses. Among neuropeptides, substance P (SubP) has received considerable attention for stimulatory effects on various immunocytes in inflammatory diseases. In our prior study, we demonstrated increased innervation of SubP containing nerve fibers (SubP fibers) in ulcerative colitis (UC) surgically resected colonic specimens. In the present study, we examined the alterations of SubP fibers among various subgroups of UC, divided according to clinicopathologic features.
Methods: Distribution of SubP fibers were examined immunohistochemically in the rectal biopsy specimens of UC. The UC group was further divided into subgroups according to six clinicopathologic parameters. The linear density of SubP fibers was measured by digitalized morphometry for quantitative analysis.
Results: Multivariate analysis revealed significant correlations between linear density of SubP fibers vs. activity of diseases and total dose of prednisolone. Linear density was significantly increased in active cases of UC (active UC, 22.6 +/- 1.6 microm/1,000 microm2; vs. inactive UC, 12.2 +/- 0.8 microm/1,000 microm2; P < 0.01). Furthermore, the increase was pronounced in cases that showed persistent inflammation and, accordingly, needed a high dose or continuous administration of prednisolone.
Conclusion: Alterations in SubP fibers appear to play an important role in the pathogenesis of UC.