Background. Ischemia-reperfusion injury is inevitable during intestinal transplantation (ITx) and executes a key role in the evolution towards rejection. Paneth cells (PCs) are crucial for epithelial immune defense and highly vulnerable to ischemia-reperfusion injury. We investigated the effect of ITx on PC after reperfusion (T0), during follow-up, and rejection. Moreover, we investigated whether PC loss was associated with impaired graft homeostasis. Methods. Endoscopic biopsies, collected according to center protocol and at rejection episodes, were retrospectively included (n = 28 ITx, n = 119 biopsies) Biopsies were immunohistochemically co-stained for PC (lysozyme) and apoptosis, and PC/crypt and lysozyme intensity were scored. Results. We observed a decrease in PC/crypt and lysozyme intensity in the first week after ITx (W1) compared with T0. There was a tendency towards a larger decline in PC/crypt (P= 0.08) and lysozyme intensity (P= 0.08) in W1 in patients who later developed rejection compared with patients without rejection. Follow-up biopsies showed that the PC number recovered, whereas lysozyme intensity remained reduced. This persisting innate immune defect may contribute to the well-known vulnerability of the intestine to infection. There was no clear evidence that PCs were affected throughout rejection. Conclusions. This study revealed a transient fall in PC numbers in the early post-ITx period but a permanent reduction in lysozyme intensity following ITx. Further research is needed to determine the potential clinical impact of PC impairment after ITx.
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