The T-cell receptor repertoire in inflammatory bowel diseases

T lymphocytes, named after their developmental site, the thymus, are key members of the adaptive immune system. They are responsible for the recognition of and reaction to a vast number of distinct antigens, thus defending the body from pathogenic threats. To this end, each T cell/lymphocyte has a T-cell receptor (TCR), through which it recognizes antigens presented by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). To be able to recognize a vast range of distinct antigens, TCRs are very variable and diverse. The TCR repertoire, defined as the collection of the distinct TCRs present in an individual, is estimated to include ~10 12 TCRs . A T cell carrying a certain TCR, as well as all T cells originating from it after clonal expansion following antigen-recognition, define a clonotype. Studying the TCR repertoire could provide important insights into disease-associated alterations of the T cell response. Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), of which Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are the main two forms, are characterized by a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Strong T cell infiltration into tissue of the intestinal tract is observed in these diseases. Dysregulated T cell reactions against, yet unknown, antigens are considered to be a driving factor for IBD. Therefore, it may be possible to identify enriched and pathogenic T cells in IBD patients’ blood and intestinal tissue. The identification of such disease associated T cell clonotypes could be an important step towards the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies and is within the scope of this work.

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