Altered interaction between enteric glial cells and mast cells in the colon of women with irritable bowel syndrome

Felipe Meira de-Faria*, Maite Casado-Bedmar, Carl Mårten Lindqvist, Michael P. Jones, Susanna A. Walter, Åsa V. Keita*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)
    38 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: Enteric glial cells (EGC) and mast cells (MC) are intimately associated with gastrointestinal physiological functions. We aimed to investigate EGC-MC interaction in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a gut-brain disorder linked to increased intestinal permeability, and MC. Methods: Parallel approaches were used to quantify EGC markers in colonic biopsies from healthy controls (HC) and patients with IBS. Data were correlated with MC, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) and VIP receptors (VPAC1/VPAC2) expressions, and bacterial translocation through biopsies mounted in Ussing chambers. In addition, we investigated the effects of EGC mediators on colonic permeability and the pharmacological-induced responses of EGC and MC cell lines. Key Results: Immunofluorescence of IBS colonic mucosa, as well as Western blotting and ELISA of IBS biopsy lysates, revealed increased glial fibrillary intermediate filament (GFAP) expression, indicating EGC activation. Mucosal GFAP correlated with increased MC and VPAC1+MC numbers and decreased VIP+MC, which seemed to control bacterial translocation in HC. In the contrary, EGC activation in IBS correlated with less MC and VPAC1+ MC numbers, and more VIP+ MC. In vitro, MC and EGC cell lines showed intracellular calcium responses to each other's mediators. Furthermore, EGC mediators prevented VIP-induced MC degranulation, while MC mediators induced a reactive EGC phenotype. In Ussing chambers, EGC mediators decreased paracellular passage through healthy colonic biopsies. Conclusions & Inferences: Findings suggest the involvement of EGC and MC in the control of barrier function in the human colon and indicate a potential EGC-MC interaction that seems altered in IBS, with detrimental consequences to colonic permeability. Altogether, results suggest that imbalanced EGC-MC communication contributes to the pathophysiology of IBS.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere14130
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    Number of pages16
    JournalNeurogastroenterology and Motility
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


    • bacterial translocation
    • enteric glial cells
    • enteric nervous system
    • mast cell
    • mucosal immunology


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