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Keywords:

  • inflammatory bowel disease;
  • intestinal epithelial cells;
  • MHC I;
  • MHC II

Summary

Antigen presentation by intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) is crucial for intestinal homeostasis. Disturbances of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I)- and II-related presentation pathways in IEC appear to be involved in an altered activation of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in inflammatory bowel disease. However, a comprehensive analysis of MHC I- and II-enriched compartments in IEC of the small and large bowel in the healthy state as opposed to inflammatory bowel diseases is lacking. The aim of this study was to characterize the subcellular expression of MHC I and II in the endocytic pathway of IEC throughout all parts of the intestinal tract, and to identify differences between the healthy state and inflammatory bowel diseases. Biopsies were taken by endoscopy from the duodenum, jejunum, ileum and colon in healthy individuals (n = 20). In Crohn's disease (CD), biopsies were obtained from the ileum and colon and within the colon from ulcerative colitis (UC) patients (n = 15). Analysis of IEC was performed by immunoelectron microscopy. MHC I and II were identified in early endosomes and multi-vesicular, multi-lamellar, electrondense and vacuolar late endosomes. Both molecules were enriched in multi-vesicular bodies. No differences were found between the distinct parts of the gut axis. In CD and UC the expression of MHC I and II showed a shift from multi-vesicular bodies towards the basolateral membranes. Within the multi-vesicular bodies, MHC I and II moved from internal vesicles to the limiting membranes upon inflammation in CD and UC. MHC I- and II-enriched compartments in IEC were identical in all parts of the small and large bowel. CD and UC appear to modulate the MHC I- and II-related presentation pathways of exogenous antigens in IEC.