Background: T helper (Th) and regulatory T (Treg) cell-related cytokines are implicated in inflammatory bowel diseases, including ulcerative colitis (UC). While these cytokines are generally upregulated in inflamed mucosae, the key cytokine profile explaining disease severity has not been determined. Methods: The Rachmilewitz endoscopic index (REI) was assessed in 61 UC patients undergoing colonoscopy. Biopsies obtained from inflamed (REI 3–12) and noninflamed (REI 0–2) areas were analyzed by quantitative PCR for expression of mRNAs encoding cytokines and transcription factors related to Th1 (TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-12p35, IL-12p40, and T-bet), Th2 (IL-4, IL-13, IL-33, and GATA3), Th17 (IL-17A, IL-17F, IL-21, IL-22, IL-23p19, IL-6, and RORC), Th9 (IL-9, IRF4, and PU.1), and Treg (TGF-β and Foxp3). Expression patterns associated with higher REI were determined by univariate and multivariate analyses. Results: Despite general upregulation, none of these mRNAs showed univariate correlation with REI in inflamed samples. Multiple regression analysis, however, found that joint expression of IL-17A, IL-17F, IL-21, RORC, and TGF-β was significantly predictive of REI (P < 0.0002, R2 = 0.380), with major individual contributions by IL-17A (P < 0.0001) and IL-17F (P < 0.0001), which were associated with increased and decreased REI, respectively. Partial correlation analysis, validating this model, indicated differences between IL-17A and IL-17F in correlating with other targets. The IL-17A/IL-17F ratio showed a significant correlation with REI (r = 0.5124, P < 0.0001), whereas no other mRNAs were essentially predictive of REI. Conclusions: Mucosal IL-17A/IL-17F ratio significantly correlates with endoscopic score in UC patients, accompanied by their disparate interactions with other Th/Treg-related genes.
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