Date of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Medical Sciences (MSMS)


Medical Sciences (Molecular Virology and Immunology Program)


Pingchang Yang




Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a chronic intestinal inflammation that has caused many challenges for healthcare providers in treating the disease and also altered the quality of life of the patients. The cure for IBD is still symptomatic-based; the causes mechanism and pathogenesis of IBD are to be further investigated. Currently, IBD has been considered as an excessive immune response to commensal flora that in normal condition is tolerable to the host. Antigen presenting cells (APCs) play an important role in the pathogenesis of IBD. Macrophage is one of the professional APCs that present antigen information to T cells and induce the T cell subtype proliferation. Aside from this role, macrophages also phagocytose pathogens and clean cell debris in thebody.

T cell immunoglobulin and mucin domain (TIM)-4 is a glycoprotein expressed on the surface of macrophage, which recognizes phosphatidylserine (PS) that is expressed mainly on the surface of the early apoptotic cell phospholipid membrane; the latter is a negatively charged molecule that can bind to the TIM-4 to enhance the phagocytosing activity. In IBD, the loss of intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) due to apoptosis is prominent in the site of inflammation especially in ulcerative colitis (UC).

The aim of this study is to elucidate whether there is an increase of TIM-4 expression in colitis mice model after exposure to excessive number of apoptotic IECs and whether TIM-4 plays a role in the development of colitis in mice.

The expression of TIM-4 is measured with several tests; including flow cytometry, immunohistochemistry, western blotting and real time RT-PCR. In the first step, we tried to see if there is a difference in the TIM-4 expression in colitis mice and ethanol control mice. After the association was established, we further observed the role of TIM-4 in the pathogenesis of IBD by injecting TIM-4+ macrophages into the mice prior to inducing a mild colitis in the mice and finally injected neutralizing anti TIM-4 antibodies to block the available TIM-4 receptors.

We found that TIM-4 expression was higher in a colitis mouse model compared to the control. Also by injecting TIM-4+ macrophages into the mice, the frequency of intestinal T regulatory (Treg) cells was decreased significantly. Finally in the group treated with anti-TIM-4 neutralizing antibodies prior to colitis induction, the frequency of intestinal Treg cells increased significantly and the inflammation response was less severe than the colitis control group. This study revealed, for the first time in the world, that TIM-4 expression in the colon of colitis mice was significantly increased, which suppressed Tregs and promoted T effector cells.

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