Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common functional bowel disorder. The post-infectious IBS (PI-IBS) occurs in IBS patients with a history of intestinal infection preceding the onset of symptoms. However, the underlying cause of PI-IBS is not fully understood, and the purpose of this study was to investigate the immune regulatory mechanism of PI-IBS.
Participants enrolled in this study were divided into three groups including PI-IBS patients (n=20), IBS patients without a history of infection (non-PI-IBS, n=18), and healthy controls (n=20). The expression levels of the Th1-derived cytokines IFN-γ and IL-12, and the Th2-derived cytokines IL-4 and IL-10 in the mucosal specimens, and in the ascending colon, the descending colon, and the rectal segments were measured by RT-PCR and western blot.
The IFN-γ mRNA levels in the intestinal mucosa were significantly higher in the PI-IBS group than in the non-PI-IBS or control group (both P<0.05), but there was no difference between the non-PI-IBS and control groups. A trend toward IFN-γ protein upregulation was found in the PI-IBS group, while the IL-12 and IL-4 mRNA and protein levels were not different between any groups. The IL-10 mRNA and protein levels in the PI-IBS group were both significantly lower than in the non-PI-IBS or control groups (P<0.05, respectively), but there was no difference between the non-PI-IBS and control groups. There were no differences in the cytokine mRNA and protein levels among the ascending colon, the descending colon, and the rectum of all groups.
An increase in IFN-γ levels and a decrease in IL-10 levels were found in the intestinal mucosa of PI-IBS patients, suggesting that the infection may affect the Th1/Th2 balance. Thus, the dysregulation of the immune response is likely an important cause of IBS.
Keywords: Irritable bowel syndrome, Intestinal mucosa, Th1/Th2, Cytokine