The present studies were undertaken to evaluate the histologic effects of graft-versus-host disease on the host colon after small bowel transplantation. Graft-versus-host disease was produced in six Lewis × Brown Norway F1 rats by performing vascularized, out-of-continuity small bowel transplants from parental Lewis donors. Host proximal and distal colon were sampled 14 days after operation when signs of graft-versus-host disease, including weight loss and spenomegaly, were present. Tissue was assessed histologically by blinded observer and compared to eight sham-operated controls. Three histologic features were noted to be statistically increased in diseased animals: (1) mucin loss; (2) crypt abscesses; and (3) large lymphoid aggregates in the mucosa and submucosa. These features were more commonly noted in the distal rather than the proximal, colon. Another group of five grafted animals treated with cyclosporine A (10 mg/kg/day intramuscularly) still lost weight but did not display overt signs of graft-versus-host disease and had normal-sized spleens. There was normal mucin content and no evidence of crypt abscesses in these treated animals, although large lymphoid aggregates were present. It is concluded that mucin loss, crypt abscesses, and large lymphoid aggregates are characteristics of graft-versus-host disease-induced colonic injury in this model and that these changes are most evident in the distal colon. Cyclosporine A therapy does not completely reverse the histological changes of colonic graft-versus-host disease. This model may be useful in studying the mechanisms by which immune mediated colitides preferentially affect the distal colon.
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