Background: Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) maintain a sterile environment in intestinal crypts, limiting microbial colonization and invasion. Decreased AMP expression is proposed to increase the risk for inflammatory bowel disease. Expression and function of inducible AMPs, human β-defensin 2 and 3 (hBD-2 and hBD-3), remain poorly characterized in healthy and chronically inflamed intestine.
Methods: Peptide concentrations of hBD-2 and hBD-3 in serum and intestinal biopsies of subjects with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease (CD), and those of healthy subjects were measured by ELISA. Messenger RNA of hBD-2 and hBD-3 was quantified by quantitative PCR in biopsies from the terminal ileum (TI) of patients with CD and healthy controls. Peptide localization of hBD-3 in the TI was visualized by confocal microscopy.
Results: Immunoreactive hBD-3 peptide is present in the TI and colon in healthy subjects. In the TI of patients with CD, hBD-3, but not hBD-2 peptide, is increased 4-fold, whereas hBD-2 peptide is elevated in the serum. Messenger RNA of hBD-3 in the CD TI remains unchanged and does not correlate with hBD-3 peptide expression. However, hBD-3 is localized to Paneth cell granules and the apical surface of the healthy columnar epithelium. In CD, hBD-3 peptide location switches to the basolateral surface of the columnar epithelium and is diffusely distributed within the lamina propria.
Conclusion: The peptide hBD-3 throughout the healthy gastrointestinal tract suggests a role in maintaining balance between host defenses and commensal microbiota. Increased and relocalized secretion of hBD-3 toward the lamina propria in the CD TI indicates possible local immunomodulation during chronic inflammation, whereas increased serum hBD-2 in CD implicates its systemic antimicrobial and immunomodulatory role.