Digestive Diseases and Sciences

, Volume 63, Issue 10, pp 2582–2592 | Cite as

Expression of α-Defensins, CD20+ B-lymphocytes, and Intraepithelial CD3+ T-lymphocytes in the Intestinal Mucosa of Patients with Liver Cirrhosis: Emerging Mediators of Intestinal Barrier Function

  • Georgios I. TsiaoussisEmail author
  • Eleni C. Papaioannou
  • Eleni P. Kourea
  • Stelios F. Assimakopoulos
  • Georgios I. Theocharis
  • Michalis Petropoulos
  • Vasileios I. Theopistos
  • Georgia G. Diamantopoulou
  • Zoi Lygerou
  • Iris Spiliopoulou
  • Konstantinos C. Thomopoulos
Original Article



The present study investigates the role of innate and adaptive immune system of intestinal mucosal barrier function in cirrhosis.


Forty patients with decompensated (n = 40, group A), 27 with compensated cirrhosis (n = 27, group B), and 27 controls (n = 27, group C) were subjected to duodenal biopsy. Expression of α-defensins 5 and 6 at the intestinal crypts was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. Serum endotoxin, intestinal T-intraepithelial, and lamina propria B-lymphocytes were quantified.


Cirrhotic patients presented higher endotoxin concentrations (p < 0.0001) and diminished HD5 and HD6 expression compared to healthy controls (p = 0.000287, p = 0.000314, respectively). The diminished HD5 and HD6 expressions were also apparent among the decompensated patients compared to compensated group (p = 0.025, p = 0.041, respectively). HD5 and HD6 expressions were correlated with endotoxin levels (r = -0.790, p < 0.0001, r = − 0.777, p < 0.0001, respectively). Although intraepithelial T-lymphocytes were decreased in group A compared to group C (p = 0.002), no notable alterations between groups B and C were observed. The B-lymphocytic infiltrate did not differ among the investigated groups.


These data demonstrate that decreased expression of antimicrobial peptides may be considered as a potential pathophysiological mechanism of intestinal barrier dysfunction in liver cirrhosis, while remodeling of gut-associated lymphoid tissue as an acquired immune response to bio-pathogens remains an open field to illuminate.


Bacterial translocation Mucosal defense Antimicrobial peptides Gut-associated lymphoid tissue Endotoxin Paneth cells 



We thank Roumelioti Maria for the excellent technical assistance and the Advanced Light Microscopy Facility, University of Patras, for help with microscopy.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgios I. Tsiaoussis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eleni C. Papaioannou
    • 2
  • Eleni P. Kourea
    • 2
  • Stelios F. Assimakopoulos
    • 3
  • Georgios I. Theocharis
    • 1
  • Michalis Petropoulos
    • 5
  • Vasileios I. Theopistos
    • 1
  • Georgia G. Diamantopoulou
    • 1
  • Zoi Lygerou
    • 5
  • Iris Spiliopoulou
    • 4
  • Konstantinos C. Thomopoulos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GastroenterologyUniversity Hospital of PatrasPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Department of Pathology, School of MedicineUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  3. 3.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity Hospital of PatrasPatrasGreece
  4. 4.Department of Microbiology, School of MedicineUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece
  5. 5.Department of General Biology, School of MedicineUniversity of PatrasPatrasGreece

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