Colonic tuft cells are epithelial chemosensory cells involved in barrier integrity, modulation of inflammatory responses and gut homeostasis. Recent evidence indicates an involvement of tuft cells in ulcerative colitis pathogenesis, though mechanisms remain largely unknown.Here, we quantified the colonic tuft cell population in patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis as compared to patients without identified colonic disease (controls).
In this retrospective study, we obtained endoscopic colonic sigmoid biopsies from 14 patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis and from 17 controls. In a blinded central-reading design, we identified tuft cells by immunohistochemistry using a cyclooxygenase-1 antibody as a marker and performed a simple counting by visual inspection. Poisson regression was employed for statistics and results were adjusted for gender, age and smoking status.
Ulcerative colitis patients demonstrated a 55% reduced tuft cell count in colonic mucosa compared with the control group (95% confidence limit: range 31-71%, P = 0.0002). Ulcerative colitis patients had a mean tuft cells count of 46 tuft cells/mm (95% CI, 36-59), while controls demonstrated a mean of 104 tuft cells/mm (95% CI, 79-136). No interactions of other covariates, such as age, smoking status, total duration of ulcerative colitis disease and duration of clinical remission prior to study inclusion were detected between ulcerative colitis patients and controls.
Quiescent ulcerative colitis patients have a relatively low number of colonic tuft cells. Further studies are warranted to explore the potential involvement of tuft cells in ulcerative colitis pathogenesis.