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Interleukin 31 mediates MAP kinase and STAT1/3 activation in intestinal epithelial cells and its expression is upregulated in inflammatory bowel disease
  1. Julia Dambacher1,
  2. Florian Beigel1,
  3. Julia Seiderer1,
  4. Dirk Haller2,
  5. Burkhard Göke1,
  6. Christoph J Auernhammer1,
  7. Stephan Brand1
  1. 1Department of Medicine II, University Hospital Munich-Grosshadern, University of Munich, Germany
  2. 2Nutrition and Food Research Center, Experimental Nutritional Medicine, Technical University Munich-Weihenstephan, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Stephan Brand
    University Hospital Munich-Grosshadern, Department of Medicine II, University of Munich, Marchioninistrasse 15, 81377 Munich, Germany; stephan.brand{at}


Background/aim: Interleukin 31 (IL31), primarily expressed in activated lymphocytes, signals through a heterodimeric receptor complex consisting of the IL31 receptor alpha (IL31Rα) and the oncostatin M receptor (OSMR). The aim of this study was to analyse IL31 receptor expression, signal transduction, and specific biological functions of this cytokine system in intestinal inflammation.

Methods: Expression studies were performed by RT-PCR, quantitative PCR, western blotting, and immunohistochemistry. Signal transduction was analysed by western blotting. Cell proliferation was measured by MTS assays, cell migration by restitution assays.

Results: Colorectal cancer derived intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) lines express both IL31 receptor subunits, while their expression in unstimulated primary murine IEC was low. LPS and the proinflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IL1β, IFN-γ, and sodium butyrate stimulation increased IL31, IL31Rα, and OSMR mRNA expression, while IL31 itself enhanced IL8 expression in IEC. IL31 mediates ERK-1/2, Akt, STAT1, and STAT3 activation in IEC resulting in enhanced IEC migration. However, at low cell density, IL31 had significant antiproliferative capacities (p<0.005). IL31 mRNA expression was not increased in the TNFΔARE mouse model of ileitis but in inflamed colonic lesions compared to non-inflamed tissue in patients with Crohn’s disease (CD; average 2.4-fold increase) and in patients with ulcerative colitis (UC; average 2.6-fold increase) and correlated with the IL-8 expression in these lesions (r = 0.564 for CD; r = 0.650 for UC; total number of biopsies analysed: n = 88).

Conclusion: IEC express the functional IL31 receptor complex. IL31 modulates cell proliferation and migration suggesting a role in the regulation of intestinal barrier function particularly in intestinal inflammation.

  • CD, Crohn’s disease
  • ERK, extracellular signal regulated kinase
  • ELISA, enzyme linked immunosorbent assay
  • FCS, fetal calf serum
  • GAPDH, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase
  • GPL, gp130-like receptor
  • IBD, inflammatory bowel disease
  • IEC, intestinal epithelial cell
  • IFN, interferon
  • IL, interleukin
  • IL31Rα, interleukin 31 receptor alpha
  • LIF, leukaemia inhibitory factor
  • LIFR, leukaemia inhibitory factor receptor
  • LPS, lipopolysaccharide
  • MAP kinase, mitogen activated protein kinase
  • MCMV, murine cytomegalovirus
  • MEK, mitogen activated protein kinase kinase
  • MTS, 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-5-(3-carboxymethoxyphenyl)-2-(4-sulfophenyl)-2H-tetrazolium
  • OSM, oncostatin M
  • OSMR, oncostatin M receptor
  • PCR, polymerase chain reaction
  • PI, phosphatidyl-inositol
  • RT-PCR, reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction
  • SOCS, suppressor of cytokine signalling
  • STAT, signal transducer and activator of transcription
  • TNF-α, tumour necrosis factor alpha
  • UC, ulcerative colitis
  • interleukin
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • intestinal epithelial cell

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  • Published Online First 20 April 2007

  • Competing interests: None.