Background & aims: Prostaglandins are synthesized by cyclooxygenases (COX)-1 and -2. The expression and cellular localization of COX-1 and COX-2 in normal human colon and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) surgical resections were studied.
Methods: COX-1 and COX-2 protein expression and cellular localization were assessed by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry.
Results: COX-1 protein was expressed at equal levels in normal, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis colonic epithelial cells. COX-2 protein was not detected in normal epithelial cells but was detected in Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis epithelial cells. Immunohistochemistry of normal, Crohn's colitis, and ulcerative colitis tissue showed equivalent COX-1 expression in epithelial cells in the lower half of the colonic crypts. COX-2 expression was absent from normal colon, whereas in Crohn's colitis and ulcerative colitis, COX-2 was observed in apical epithelial cells and in lamina propria mononuclear cells. In Crohn's ileitis, COX-2 was present in the villus epithelial cells. In ulcerative colitis, colonic epithelial cells expressing COX-2 also expressed inducible nitric oxide synthase.
Conclusions: COX-1 was localized in the crypt epithelium of the normal ileum and colon, and its expression was unchanged in IBD. COX-2 was undetectable in normal ileum or colon, but it was induced in apical epithelial cells of inflamed foci in IBD.