The role of activated cytotoxic T cells in inflammatory bowel disease


  • Andreas Kappeler
  • C. Mueller


ulcerative colitis, crohn's disease, cell-mediated cytotoxicity, perforin, granzyme A


The role of cell-mediated cytotoxicity in the pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease has been controversial since reports indicating either a decreased, or an increased, activity of cytotoxic T cells in active stages of inflammatory bowel disease exist. Some of these discrepancies may be attributed to the fact that so far mostly peripheral blood lymphocytes rather than intestinal T cells have been examined. To overcome some of these limitations we performed in situ hybridizations for the detection of perforin and granzyme A mRNA expressing cells, i.e. of cytotoxic cells activated in situ, in the affected intestinal mucosa. These studies revealed increased frequencies of activated, cytotoxic T cells in active stages of ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Interestingly, activated perforin mRNA expressing T cells are present both in the CD4 and in the CD8 T cell subsets. In the latter T cell subset up to 60% of the mucosal T cells isolated from the affected sites express perforin mRNA at detectable levels. The elevated frequency of activated cytotoxic cells and their histological distribution also in close proximity to the epithelial cells may thus indicate an important role for cytotoxic cells in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease since activated cytotoxic T cells may further exacerbate the inflammatory process through the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interferon-y or tumor necrosis factor-a, but also through the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines upon lysis of epithelial cells and the increased influx of lumina1 antigens at the site of epithelia1 erosions.




Invited Reviews