Defective Paneth Cell—Mediated Host Defense in Pediatric Ileal Crohn's Disease

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OBJECTIVES:Adult ileal Crohn's disease (CD) is characterized by a specific decrease in ileal Paneth cell α-defensins. In addition to NOD2, we previously identified a disturbance of the Wnt-signaling transcription factor TCF-4 as a major mechanism for this deficiency. The aim of this study was to evaluate human α-defensin-5 (HD-5) and TCF-4 in an independent cohort of pediatric CD patients.METHODS:Expression levels of HD-5 and TCF-4 mRNA were quantified by real-time PCR in biopsies from newly diagnosed untreated pediatric CD patients (<18 years,n=36) and age-matched symptomatic non-inflammatory bowel disease controls with a histologically normal gut (n=29). To assess the influence of current inflammation, mucosal interleukin-8 (IL-8) and fecal calprotectin levels were determined.RESULTS:Small intestinal HD-5 and TCF-4 mRNA were significantly reduced in pediatric ileal CD (L1+L3) (P=0.022 andP=0.0005, respectively) and were significantly correlated (r=0.499;P=0.0001). In ileal but not colonic CD, TCF-4 was also reduced in the colon (P=0.005). Importantly, both HD-5 and TCF-4 were independent of inflammation, as measured by IL-8 expression or fecal calprotectin. In contrast to the small intestine, colonic Paneth cell HD-5 mRNA was significantly elevated in colonic CD (L2) (P=0.026) and was correlated with fecal calprotectin levels (r=0.481;P=0.020).CONCLUSIONS:In this study, we describe a specific decrease in HD-5 and TCF-4 mRNA expression levels in children with ileal CD. In the small intestine, this decrease was independent of current inflammation, whereas inflammation seems to induce Paneth cell metaplasia in the colon. Our data extend the hypothesis of an important role of antimicrobial host defense in pediatric CD patients.

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