Background: Interleukin-8 (IL-8) is an important cytokine for recruitment and activation of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs), cells that are abundant in the intestinal lesions of ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn's disease (CD). The present investigation was conducted to evaluate intestinal IL-8 concentration and IL-8 gene expression in parallel in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients and a non-inflammatory control group.
Methods: The intestinal concentration of IL-8 was measured with a sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) technique (detection limit, 17.4 pg/mg protein), and relative quantitation of IL-8 mRNA transcript levels was done with a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)-based method. Biopsy specimens from 66 humans who underwent colonoscopy--28 with UC, 18 with CD and colonic involvement, and 20 non-inflammatory disease-specific controls who subsequently were found to fulfill the diagnostic criteria for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)--were included. None had received glucocorticoids within 3 months.
Results: Using a one-tailed variance analysis, a significant concordance between increasing IL-8 protein concentrations and disease activity was found both in UC and CD (P < 0.001), and only trace amounts were detected in IBS biopsy specimens. No differences were found between the two groups of UC and CD patients (P > 0.05), and no differences were found between quiescent IBD and IBS (P > 0.05). However, the PCR method showed IL-8 mRNA in 8 of 18 CD patients (44.4%; 95% confidence limits, 21.5-69.2%) and 7 of 28 UC patients (25.9%; 95% confidence limits, 11.1-46.3%), as compared with 0 of 20 IBS (P < 0.005). Increased IL-8 mRNA levels were found only in active CD, which was not the case in UC. No correlation was found between intestinal IL-8 ELISA and IL-8-mRNA levels (r = 0.24, P > 0.05).
Conclusions: The observed correlation between disease activity and expression of the IL-8 gene in active CD colitis but not in UC and the increased IL-8 protein concentrations in affected intestinal segments of IBD as compared with the non-inflamed IBS indicate a possible transient IL-8 gene expression or altered mRNA stability in UC and CD, as is well known for other cytokines, such as IL-2. If so, it may form the basis of new therapeutic regimens for IBD like IL-10.