DOP86 An IFN-STAT1-MLKL axis drives programmed necrosis of Paneth cells in Crohn’s ileitis

L. HARTMANN1, B. Siegmund2, C. Weidinger2, C. Becker1, M.F. Neurath1, C. Günther1

1University Clinic Erlangen, Department of Medicine 1, Erlangen, Germany, 2Charité, Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Corporate Member of Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin Institute of Health, Medizinische Klinik für Gastroenterologie, Infektiologie und Rheumatologie, Berlin, Germany


Interferons (IFNs) are immune-modulatory cytokines expressed by epithelial and mucosal cells in response to viral and bacterial infection. Just recently, we discovered a correlation between IFN-λ expression and disease activity, including small intestinal inflammation and Paneth cell dysfunction, in human Crohn’s disease patients. On a molecular level, we uncovered that IFN-λ mediates epithelial cell death, in particular, Paneth cell death by a programmed necrosis, dependent on STAT1 activation and controlled by caspase-8. These results suggested that IFN-λ can be considered as a pathogenic cytokine in Crohn′s ileitis and should be considered as a new and promising target for future therapeutic intervention for this particular subtype of IBD. Our central question is now by which pathways interferon-regulated programmed necrosis of epithelial cells contributes to intestinal inflammation and how these mechanisms could be targeted for future therapeutic intervention.


We use a mouse model for Crohn’s Disease like inflammation and Paneth cell death that has a specific deletion of Caspase-8 in intestinal epithelial cells (Casp8∆IEC). We stimulate small intestinal organoids derived from Casp8∆IEC mice with IFNs in vitro and we overexpress IFN-λ in these mice in vivo by hydrodynamic tail vein injection of an IFN-λ expression vector. Furthermore, we use JAK-inhibitors to impede pharmacologically cell death pathways in the pathogenesis of intestinal inflammation in vitro and in vivo.


We uncovered that gene expression of the cell death mediators Mlkl and Caspase-8 is dependent on IFN-λ-mediated JAK-STAT1 signalling. The non-specific pan JAK-inhibitor Tofacitinib is able to attenuate gene expression of Mlkl and Caspase-8 in vitro as well as in vivo. It prevents non-apoptotic as well as apoptotic cell death of small intestinal organoids stimulated with IFN-λ and is sufficient to prevent small intestinal tissue destruction in Casp8∆IEC mice challenged with IFN-λ. Additionally, we use the selective JAK1-inhibitor Filgotinib to limit the targeted JAK-STAT signalling pathways to only JAK1-STAT1 signalling and thus reduce side effects of the inhibitor on other signalling pathways. This had a similar effect as Tofacitinib suggesting that IFN controls MLKL-mediated cell death via JAK1.


In summary, our results indicate that targeting IFN-λ-mediated JAK-STAT1 signalling by the small-molecules Tofacitinib and Filgotinib impedes induction of Mlkl and Caspase-8-mediated cell death pathways. Therefore, JAK1 inhibitors such as Filgotinib might represent a promising novel therapy that may be sufficient to achieve efficacy particularly in Crohn′s ileitis patients who display elevated IFN-l serum levels.