Immune modulation in gastrointestinal disorders: new opportunities for therapeutic peptides?
de Jonge WJ., Greaves DR.
Inflammation is the response of vascularized tissues to injury, irritation and infection. Nearly always, the inflammatory response is successfully resolved and, when necessary, a process of wound healing is initiated. Nowhere in the body is this homeostatic process more challenging than in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where the microbial flora sits in very close proximity to the mucosal immune system, separated only by an epithelial cell barrier. Delicate regulatory systems of the mucosal immune system determine mucosal permeability and response to bacterial flora, and aberrations in this system result in acute or chronic inflammatory conditions. Examples of such are two commonly occurring inflammatory GI disorders: inflammatory bowel disease and postoperative ileus. Inflammatory bowel disease is the result of a chronic and excessive mucosal immune response, whereas postoperative ileus represents a transient condition of GI tract paralysis that is the result of an inflammatory response to abdominal surgery. The clinical management of both conditions is very challenging and depends heavily on the possibility of modulating the host immune response. In this brief report, we highlight the role of neuropeptides in GI physiology and immune regulation, discuss a recently discovered endogenous anti-inflammatory pathway mediated by the ChemR23 receptor and speculate on the therapeutic potential of peptides that bind G-protein-coupled receptors in the management of inflammation in the GI tract.