Corticosteroid enhances epithelial barrier function in intestinal organoids derived from patients with Crohn's disease

P. Xu, M. Elizalde, A. Masclee, M. Pierik, D. Jonkers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Corticosteroids (CS), first-line therapeutics for Crohn's disease (CD) with moderate or severe disease activity, were found to restore intestinal permeability in CD patients, whereas the underlying molecular events are still largely unknown. This study aimed to investigate the effect and mechanisms of CS prednisolone on epithelial barrier using CD patient-derived intestinal organoids. 3D intestinal organoids were generated from colon biopsies of inactive CD patients. To mimic the inflammatory microenvironment, a mixture of cytokines containing TNF-alpha, IFN-gamma, and IL-1 beta were added to the organoid culture with or without pre-incubation of prednisolone or mifepristone. Epithelial permeability of the organoids was assessed by FITC-D4 flux from the basal to luminal compartment using confocal microscopy. Expression of junctional components were analyzed by qRT-PCR, immunofluorescence staining, and western blot. Activity of signaling pathways were analyzed using western blot. Exposure of the cytokines significantly disrupted epithelial barrier of the intestinal organoids, which was partially restored by prednisolone. On the molecular level, the cytokine mixture resulted in a significant reduction in E-cadherin and ILDR-1, an increase in CLDN-2, MLCK, and STAT1 phosphorylation, whereas prednisolone ameliorated the abovementioned effects induced by the cytokine mixture. This study demonstrates that prednisolone confers a direct effect in tightening the epithelial barrier, identifies novel junctional targets regulated by prednisolone, and underscores intestinal barrier restoration as a potential mechanism that contributes to the clinical efficacy of prednisolone in CD patients. Key messagesPrednisolone confers a direct preventive effect against cytokine-induced barrier dysfunction. Prednisolone regulates the expression of CLDN-2, E-cadherin, and ILDR-1. The effect of prednisolone is GR-, MLCK-, and STAT1-dependent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-815
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Molecular Medicine
Issue number6
Early online date11 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • barrier function
  • corticosteroids
  • intestinal organoids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Barrier function
  • Intestinal organoids

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