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Open Access Research article

Imbalanced shift of cytokine expression between T helper 1 and T helper 2 (Th1/Th2) in intestinal mucosa of patients with post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome

Ji Chen12*, Yangde Zhang1 and Zhansheng Deng3

Author Affiliations

1 National Hepatobiliary & Enteric Surgery Research Center, Ministry of Health, Central South University, Changsha, 410008, China

2 Digestive System Department, Baogang Hospital, the 3rd affiliated Hospital of Inner Mongolia Medical College, Baotou, 014010, China

3 Department of Orthopedics, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, 410008, China

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BMC Gastroenterology 2012, 12:91  doi:10.1186/1471-230X-12-91

Published: 20 July 2012

Abstract

Background

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional bowel disorder. The post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS) occurs in IBS patients with a history of intestinal infection preceding the onset of symptoms. However, the underlying cause of PI-IBS is not fully understood, and the purpose of this study was to investigate the immune regulatory mechanism of PI-IBS.

Methods

Participants enrolled in this study were divided into three groups including PI-IBS patients (n = 20), IBS patients without a history of infection (non-PI-IBS, n = 18), and healthy controls (n = 20). The expression levels of the Th1-derived cytokines IFN-γ and IL-12, and the Th2-derived cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 in the mucosal specimens, and in the ascending colon, the descending colon, and the rectal segments were measured by RT-PCR and western blot.

Results

The IFN-γ mRNA levels in the intestinal mucosa were significantly higher in the PI-IBS group than in the non-PI-IBS or control group (both P < 0.05), but there was no difference between the non-PI-IBS and control groups. A trend toward IFN-γ protein upregulation was found in the PI-IBS group, while the IL-12 and IL-4 mRNA and protein levels were not different between any groups. The IL-10 mRNA and protein levels in the PI-IBS group were both significantly lower than in the non-PI-IBS or control groups (P < 0.05, respectively), but there was no difference between the non-PI-IBS and control groups. There were no differences in the cytokine mRNA and protein levels among the ascending colon, the descending colon, and the rectum of all groups.

Conclusions

An increase in IFN-γ levels and a decrease in IL-10 levels were found in the intestinal mucosa of PI-IBS patients, suggesting that the infection may affect the Th1/Th2 balance. Thus, the dysregulation of the immune response is likely an important cause of IBS.

Keywords:
Irritable bowel syndrome; Intestinal mucosa; Th1/Th2; Cytokine