Update in inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis

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Purpose of review

During the last few years, significant advances have been achieved in the understanding of the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). By gaining new insights, paradigms that seemed to be a safe basis of our knowledge on IBD pathogenesis have recently become doubtful. This review discusses and summarizes the most recent developments.

Recent findings

Important new insights have been gained into the function of caspase-activating and recruitment domain-15 (CARD15)/NOD2, the first cloned susceptibility gene for Crohn disease (CD). New data on CARD15/NOD2 function and nuclear factor-κB activation indicate that an inflammatory reaction of the intestinal mucosa as a response of the innate immune system may be necessary for the maintenance of gut homeostasis. CD may therefore be seen as a defective immune response, no longer only as hyperresponsiveness of the mucosal immune system. Data on CARD15/NOD2 expression suggest that macrophages and epithelial cells could be the site of a primary pathophysiologic defect, and T-cell activation might just be a secondary effect inducing chronification of the inflammation, perhaps as a backup mechanism to a defective innate immunity. In addition to CARD15/NOD2, there are additional “innate” pathways by which commensal and pathogenic bacteria can directly interact with cells of the intestinal mucosa (eg, toll-like receptors). The “germ concept” and the “genetic concept” of IBD pathophysiology are converging.


New findings are changing our concepts of the pathogenesis of IBD. The innate immune system, early responses to bacterial products, and the modulation of T-cell responses are important aspects that are reviewed.

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