Tissue IgG4-positive plasma cells in inflammatory bowel disease: a study of 88 treatment-naive biopsies of inflammatory bowel disease.

Research paper by Renu R Virk, Shweta S Shinagare, Gregory Y GY Lauwers, Vijay V Yajnik, John H JH Stone, Vikram V Deshpande

Indexed on: 10 Aug '13Published on: 10 Aug '13Published in: Modern Pathology


The distinction of Crohn's disease from ulcerative colitis is based on clinical, endoscopic, radiological, and histological findings, a paradigm that remains unchanged despite the advent of new understanding of the immunological and genetic basis of inflammatory bowel disease. There is a strong correlation between inflammatory bowel disease, predominantly ulcerative colitis, and autoimmune pancreatitis. We hypothesized that colonic biopsies from patients with inflammatory bowel disease would demonstrate increased numbers of IgG4-positive plasma cells and that this elevation might be restricted to ulcerative colitis. We examined a cohort of 78 cases of inflammatory bowel disease: 50 ulcerative colitis and 38 Crohn's disease. We identified treatment-naive biopsies. Additionally, four cases of inflammatory bowel disease associated with autoimmune pancreatitis and 15 cases of lymphocytic/collagenous colitis were also identified. Immunohistochemical stains for IgG4 were performed. Biopsies from patients with ulcerative colitis showed significantly higher numbers of IgG4-bearing plasma cells than those with Crohn's disease (mean IgG4 counts per high-power field (hpf) 9.8 vs 2.8, P=0.001). Samples from 19 (38%) ulcerative colitis patients had IgG4 counts >10/hpf, compared with only two (5%) patients with Crohn's disease; the sensitivity and specificity of a cutoff at 10 IgG4-positive plasma cells per hpf was 38 and 95%, respectively. Among individuals <18 years, there were no statistically differences in the IgG4 counts between the two subforms of inflammatory bowel disease. Among adult patients, a cutoff of 5 IgG4+ plasma cells distinguished ulcerative colitis from Crohn's disease with a sensitivity of 53% and specificity of 83%. In comparison to inflammatory bowel disease, patients with lymphocytic/collagenous colitis showed significantly lower numbers of IgG4-positive plasma cells (P=0.0001). Ulcerative colitis with pancolitis showed higher numbers of IgG4-bearing plasma cells (mean IgG4 12.8 vs 5.8 per hpf; P=0.09). An immunohistochemical stain for IgG4 may aid in making the distinction between ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease (with exclusion of the pediatric cases), albeit with a relatively low sensitivity. This study also provides additional support to the hypothesis that a subset of ulcerative colitis cases is associated with a Th2 response.