The pathogenesis of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is not fully understood. It involves the activation of mucosal immune-mediated and inflammatory responses. Toll-like receptors (TLR) 2 and TLR4 are pattern-recognition receptors of the innate immune system; they recognize microbial and endogenous ligands. Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a bile acid receptor that regulates the inflammatory response. We aimed to evaluate TLR2, TLR4 and FXR expression patterns in GERD. We re-evaluated 84 oesophageal biopsy samples according to the global severity (GS) score, including 26 cases with histologically normal oesophagus, 28 with histologically mild oesophagitis and 30 with severe oesophagitis. We used immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization to assess the expression patterns of TLR2, TLR4 and FXR in oesophageal squamous cells. Immunohistochemistry showed that nuclear and cytoplasmic TLR2 was expressed predominantly in the basal layer of normal oesophageal epithelium. In oesophagitis, TLR2 expression increased throughout the epithelium, and the superficial expression was significantly more intensive compared to normal epithelium, p <0.01. Nuclear and cytoplasmic TLR4 was expressed throughout the thickness of squamous epithelium, with no change in oesophagitis. FXR was expressed in the nuclei of squamous cells, and the intensity of the expression increased significantly in oesophagitis (p <0.05). FXR expression correlated with basal TLR2. In situ hybridization confirmed the immunohistochemical expression patterns of TLR2 and TLR4. In GERD, TLR2, but not TLR4, expression was upregulated which indicates that innate immunity is activated according to a specific pattern in GERD. FXR expression was increased in GERD and might have a regulatory connection to TLR2.
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Tuomo J Karttunen