Epithelia from several sites exhibit inducible secretion of interleukin 8 (IL-8). This study aimed to characterise secretion of IL-8 by colonic epithelial cells in vitro. Colonic crypt cells were isolated enzymatically from resected colon and the IL-8 content of culture supernates was measured by ELISA. The rate of secretion of IL-8 accelerated and levels of IL-8 transcripts increased appreciably during culture. Exposure to tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) failed to increase secretion further. Secretion was not induced by the enzymatic digestion or by serum used in the culture medium but was significantly inhibited by butyrate, by a mean of 23%. Control experiments indicated that colonic crypt cells were the likely source. The secretion of IL-8 over 24 hours by cells from uninflamed mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease was more than twofold that from normal cells, while that from cancer bearing colons was normal. TNF alpha (10 mM) significantly suppressed IL-8 secretion only in the ulcerative colitis group and the change was different to those in the normal (p = 0.007) and Crohn's disease groups (p = 0.012). Cells from inflamed areas secreted more IL-8 than those from autologous uninflamed areas (p = 0.009) but responses to modulating factors were no different. The induction of IL-8 secretion by colonic crypt cells in vitro is probably a response to injury associated with isolation and culture. It is suppressed by butyrate and increased in inflammatory bowel disease independently of the presence of mucosal inflammation. Whether epithelial derived IL-8 plays a part in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease is not yet clear.
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