Journal of Gastroenterology

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 1-8

First online:

Update on biologic pathways in inflammatory bowel disease and their therapeutic relevance

  • Matthew J. HamiltonAffiliated withDivision of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School Email author 
  • , Scott B. SnapperAffiliated withDivision of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolDivision of Gastroenterology, Children’s Hospital of Boston, Harvard Medical School
  • , Richard S. BlumbergAffiliated withDivision of Gastroenterology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Results of recent genetic and immunologic studies have brought to the forefront several biologic pathways that allow for a better understanding of the mechanisms of tissue homeostasis, on the one hand, and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on the other. The explosion of research activity as a result of these newly identified targets is bringing the pathogenesis of these complex disorders into focus as well as creating new therapeutic opportunities. The greatest advances with perhaps the largest impact on our understanding of the etiology of Crohn’s disease are those related to bacterial sensing, such as through nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain-containing protein 2 (NOD2) and its relationships to autophagy and the unfolded protein response as a consequence of endoplasmic reticulum stress. Interestingly, it appears as though these pathways, which are rooted in microbial sensing and regulation, are interrelated. Genetic studies have also renewed interest in previously studied pathways in IBD, such as the formation and function of the inflammasome and its relationship to interleukin (IL) 1-beta signaling. With the recent success of therapeutic agents designed to block tumor necrosis factor, the IL-12/23 pathways, and lymphocyte homing, insights have been gained into the biologic relevance and impact of these various inflammatory pathways in IBD. In this review, the exciting recent advances in these biologic pathways of IBD are discussed, particularly in light of their therapeutic relevance.


Bacterial sensing Intestinal homeostasis Inflammatory bowel disease Crohn’s disease Autophagy Ulcerative colitis