Inflammatory bowel diseases, encompassing Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, are characterised by persistent leucocyte tissue infiltration leading to perpetuation of an inappropriate inflammatory cascade. The neuronal guidance molecule netrin-1 has recently been implicated in the orchestration of leucocyte trafficking during acute inflammation. We therefore hypothesised that netrin-1 could modulate leucocyte infiltration and disease activity in a model of inflammatory bowel disease.
DSS-colitis was performed in mice with partial genetic netrin-1 deficiency (Ntn-1(+/-) mice) or wild-type mice treated with exogenous netrin-1 via osmotic pump to examine the role of endogenous and therapeutically administered netrin-1. These studies were supported by in vitro models of transepithelial migration and intestinal epithelial barrier function.
Consistent with our hypothesis, we observed induction of netrin-1 during intestinal inflammation in vitro or in mice exposed to experimental colitis. Moreover, mice with partial netrin-1 deficiency demonstrated an exacerbated course of DSS-colitis compared to littermate controls, with enhanced weight loss and colonic shortening. Conversely, mice treated with exogenous mouse netrin-1 experienced attenuated disease severity. Importantly, permeability studies and quantitative assessment of apoptosis reveal that netrin-1 signalling events do not alter mucosal permeability or intestinal epithelial cell apoptosis. In vivo studies of leucocyte transmigration demonstrate suppression of neutrophil trafficking as a key function mediated by endogenous or exogenously administered netrin-1. Finally, genetic studies implicate the A2B adenosine receptor in netrin-1-mediated protection during DSS-colitis.
The present study identifies a previously unrecognised role for netrin-1 in attenuating experimental colitis through limitation of neutrophil trafficking.