Intraepithelial gammadelta+ Lymphocytes: A Comparative Study Between Celiac Disease, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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[Note: Intraepithelial lymphocytes are immune cells – part of a white blood cell group called T-cells.]

Background: Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) phenotyping has emerged as a useful test in intestinal pathology. In celiac disease (CD), a permanent and marked increase of gammadelta+ IELs has been described. However, there is a lack of knowledge about this peculiar IELs population in other intestinal pathologies.

Aim: To analyze the percentage of IELs, specifically gammadelta+ IELs subset, present in duodenal mucosa biopsies from patients with CD and compare it with those obtained from patients with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Methods: Twelve patients with untreated CD, 8 patients with SIBO, and 10 patients with diarrhea-predominant IBS were evaluated. All subjects underwent upper endoscopy for mucosal biopsy and jejunal aspirate.

From 2 small bowel biopsies, intraepithelial cells were isolated and labeled with the following monoclonal antibodies CD103-PE (phycoerythrin), CD3-FITC (fluoresecein isothio-cynate), CD-7R-PE, CD45RO-APC (allophycocyanin), and TcR gammadelta-FITC.

Flow cytometry analysis was performed on a standard FACScan. Total and IELs subset counts were expressed as percentage.

Results: Mean total IELs percentage was 16.7+/-6% in IBS, 25.4+/-17% in SIBO, and 26+/-13% in CD patients (P=0.2). CD and SIBO patients, had significantly higher percentages of gammadelta+ IELs (15.7+/-13% and 14.6+/-8%) than IBS subjects (4.1+/-2.5%, P<0.05). There was no difference between CD and SIBO (P=0.6).

Conclusions: An increased density of gammadelta+ IELs is typical, but not specific for CD. A similar increase was observed in subjects with SIBO. Our findings suggest that this unique T-cell population might have a key role against intestinal bacterial infections.

Source: Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 2007 Aug;41(7):671-676. PMID: 17667051, by Remes-Troche JM, Adames K, Castillo-Rodal AI, Ramirez T, Barreto-Zuniga R, Lopez-Vidal Y, Uscanga LF. Departments of Gastroenterology and Endoscopy, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubiran; Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Facultad de Medicina, UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico.

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