Alterations in the epithelial stem cell compartment could contribute to permanent changes in the mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis

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ObjectiveUC is a chronic inflammatory disease of the colonic mucosa. Growing evidence supports a role for epithelial cell defects in driving pathology. Moreover, long-lasting changes in the epithelial barrier have been reported in quiescent UC. Our aim was to investigate whether epithelial cell defects could originate from changes in the epithelial compartment imprinted by the disease.DesignEpithelial organoid cultures (EpOCs) were expanded ex vivo from the intestinal crypts of non-IBD controls and patients with UC. EpOCs were induced to differentiate (d-EpOCs), and the total RNA was extracted for microarray and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) analyses. Whole intestinal samples were used to determine mRNA expression by qPCR, or protein localisation by immunostaining.ResultsEpOCs from patients with UC maintained self-renewal potential and the capability to give rise to differentiated epithelial cell lineages comparable with control EpOCs. Nonetheless, a group of genes was differentially regulated in the EpOCs and d-EpOCs of patients with UC, including genes associated with antimicrobial defence (ie, LYZ, PLA2G2A), with secretory (ie, ZG16, CLCA1) and absorptive (ie, AQP8, MUC12) functions, and with a gastric phenotype (ie, ANXA10, CLDN18 and LYZ). A high rate of concordance was found in the expression profiles of the organoid cultures and whole colonic tissues from patients with UC.ConclusionsPermanent changes in the colonic epithelium of patients with UC could be promoted by alterations imprinted in the stem cell compartment. These changes may contribute to perpetuation of the disease.

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