Mucosal specimens from active Crohn's disease (ileum, n = 6; colon, n = 6), active ulcerative colitis (n = 9), normal ileum (n = 6), and normal colon (n = 6) were subjected to paired immunofluorescence staining for characterisation of macrophage subsets in situ. In the normal state, only few CD68+ macrophages (< 10%) expressing the myelomonocytic L1 antigen (calprotectin) were seen. In inflamed mucosa, especially near small vessels, the CD68+L1+ fraction increased with the degree of inflammation, near ulcers to median 65% (range 35-91%). Cells reactive with the monoclonal antibody RFD7 were also increased in inflammation but less than 5% of them costained for L1 antigen. It is concluded that L1 producing macrophages are distinct from the RFD7+ subset and probably recently recruited from peripheral blood monocytes. Like granulocytes, L1+ macrophages may be important in non-specific defence, providing calprotectin with putative anti-microbial and anti-proliferative properties.
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