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Gliadin-primed CD4+CD45RBlowCD25− T cells drive gluten-dependent small intestinal damage after adoptive transfer into lymphopenic mice
  1. T L Freitag1,2,
  2. S Rietdijk3,
  3. Y Junker1,
  4. Y Popov1,
  5. A K Bhan4,
  6. C P Kelly1,
  7. C Terhorst3,
  8. D Schuppan1
  1. 1
    Celiac Center, Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  3. 3
    Division of Immunology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4
    Immunopathology Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor D Schuppan, Division of Gastroenterology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, DA 506, 330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA; dschuppa{at}


Background and aims: Coeliac disease is a common small intestinal inflammatory disorder that results from a breach of intestinal tolerance to dietary gluten proteins, driven by gluten-reactive effector T cells. We aimed to assess the pathogenic role of gluten-reactive T cells and to generate a model of gluten-induced enteropathy.

Methods: CD4+CD25− T cell fractions were adoptively transferred into lymphopenic mice, leading to “baseline” small intestinal inflammation.

Results: Rag1−/− recipients of gliadin-presensitised CD4+CD45RBlowCD25− T cells, but not CD4+CD45RBhigh naive T cells, gained less weight and suffered from more severe duodenitis when challenged with oral gluten than recipients on gluten-free diet, or recipients of control (ovalbumin)-presensitised T cells. This was accompanied by deterioration of mucosal histological features characteristic of coeliac disease, and increased Th1/Th17 cell polarisation in the duodenum and the periphery. Interestingly, reintroduction of a gluten-free diet led to weight gain, improvement of histological duodenitis, and a decrease in duodenal interferon γ and interleukin 17 transcripts. Moreover, B cell-competent nude recipients of gliadin-presensitised CD4+CD45RBlowCD25− T cells produced high levels of serum anti-gliadin immunoglobulin A (IgA) and IgG1/IgG2c only when challenged with oral gluten.

Conclusions: CD4+ T cell immunity to gluten leads to a breach of oral gluten tolerance and small intestinal pathology in lymphopenic mice, similar to human coeliac disease. This model will be useful for the study of coeliac disease pathogenesis, and also for testing novel non-dietary therapies for coeliac disease.

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  • Funding This work was supported by NIH grant # 1 R21 DKO73254-01 to DS.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Ethics approval Approval for all procedures had been obtained from the institutional animal care and use committee (Protocol # 043-2005).

  • ▸ A supplementary file containing one table and two figures is published online only at