Background: Human beta-defensin-2 (HBD2) is an antimicrobial peptide implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Low copy number and concomitant low mRNA expression of the HBD2 gene have been implicated in susceptibility to colonic Crohn's Disease ( CD). We investigated the colonic distribution of HBD2 mRNA expression, and the contributions of genetic and environmental factors on HBD2 protein production.
Methodology/Principal Findings: We examined HBD2 mRNA expression at three colonic locations by microarray analysis of biopsies from 151 patients ( 53 CD, 67 ulcerative colitis [UC], 31 controls). We investigated environmental and genetic influences on HBD2 protein production using ex vivo cultured sigmoid colon biopsies from 69 patients (22 CD, 26 UC, 21 controls) stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and/or nicotine for 24 hours. HBD2 and cytokines were measured in culture supernatants. Using DNA samples from these patients, regions in the HBD2 gene promoter were sequenced for NF-kappa B binding-sites and HBD2 gene copy number was determined. HBD2 mRNA expression was highest in inflamed (vs. uninflamed p = 0.0122) ascending colon in CD and in inflamed (vs. uninflamed p < 0.0001) sigmoid colon in UC. HBD2 protein production was increased in inflamed UC biopsies (p = 0.0078). There was no difference in HBD2 protein production from unstimulated biopsies of CD, UC and controls. LPS-induced HBD2 production was significantly increased in CD (p = 0.0375) but not UC (p = 0.2017); this LPS-induced response was augmented by nicotine in UC (p = 0.0308) but not CD (p = 0.6872). Nicotine alone did not affect HBD2 production. HBD2 production correlated with IL8 production in UC (p < 0.001) and with IL10 in CD (p < 0.05). Variations in the HBD2 promoter and HBD2 gene copy number did not affect HBD2 production.
Significance/Conclusions: Colonic HBD2 was dysregulated at mRNA and protein level in IBD. Inflammatory status and stimulus but not germline variations influenced these changes.