Normal colonic epithelial cells play an important part in the mucosal immune system and use butyrate, a bacterial fermentation product, as an important energy source. Butyrate deficiency has been associated with inflammatory bowel disease, diversion colitis, and pseudomembranous colitis. Butyrate effects on important molecules for epithelial immune functions were studied in a colonic epithelial cell line (HT-29): the constitutive and cytokine regulated expression of secretory component (poly-Ig receptor), HLA class I and II molecules, and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1). Butyrate facilitated the constitutive expression of secretory component and HLA class I. Butyrate furthermore tended to enhance cytokine mediated stimulation of protein expression, although tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF) and interleukin 4 (IL 4) responses on HLA class I and secretory component, respectively, were relatively inhibited by butyrate. Cytokine mediated accumulation in the various mRNAs usually increased even more in the presence of butyrate, with the exception of TNF response on HLA class I and secretory component mRNA concentrations. In conclusion, butyrate may substantially influence constitutive and cytokine mediated expression of molecules with immune functions in a complex and differentiated manner, and butyrate deficiencies, as seen in various clinical conditions, might influence mucosal immune responses.
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