α4β7 integrin has recently emerged as a new target for therapy in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), via the monoclonal antibody vedolizumab. The therapeutic benefit of α4β7 integrin blockade using vedolizimab has been successfully shown for both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.1,2
The process by which T cells enter the gut mucosa is tightly controlled by a specific homing process involving regulatory molecules on the T-cell surface and their ligands on intestinal endothelial cells. The blockade of T-effector cells (Teff cells) has been demonstrated to be effective in IBD; however, little is known about the mechanisms that control the homing of regulatory T cells (Treg) to the inflamed bowel, although recent research has demonstrated that the G-protein-coupled homing receptor, GPR15, controls the homing of Treg cells to the colon in mice.
In a new study in Gut, Fischer et al.3 studied the in vivo homing of Teff and Treg cells to the inflamed gut via α4β7 integrin and GPR15. The authors looked at expression of homing receptors on T cells from both peripheral blood and inflamed mucosa. They also used a ‘humanised’ mouse model in dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) treated mice to study the migration pattern and homing of Teff and Treg cells to inflamed gut.
Expression of α4β7 integrin and GPR15 on human Treg cells was upregulated in ulcerative colitis, as opposed to Crohn’s disease and controls, and regulated by inflammatory cytokines. In addition, the in vivo homing of Treg cells from patients with ulcerative colitis to the inflamed colon in humanised mice was demonstrated to be augmented when compared with the homing of Treg cells from controls. Using vedolizumab to block adhesion molecule function did not alter the homing of Treg cells from controls, but showed that α4β7 integrin rather than GPR15 is crucial for controlling homing of Treg cells of patients with ulcerative colitis to the inflamed colon in vivo. By contrast, both molecules were shown to be involved in Teff cell homing in ulcerative colitis. Finally, the authors demonstrated that vedolizumab therapy results in the accumulation of Treg cells in the peripheral blood of patients with ulcerative colitis.
This is an interesting study because it clearly identifies GPR15 as another potential therapeutic target for the blockade of Teff cell homing in IBD. However, possibly more significantly, via the use of the humanised mouse model, this study offers researchers another method to evaluate the use of anti-adhesion therapies and human T-cell homing in vivo in IBD.
3. Fischer A, Zundler A, Atraya R, et al. Differential effects of α4β7 and GPR15 on homing of effector and regulatory T cells from patients with UC to the inflamed gut in vivo. Gut Epub ahead of print 24 July 2015. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2015-310022.