OP30 Upadacitinib modulates inflammatory pathways in gut tissue in patients with Ulcerative Colitis: Transcriptomic profiling from the Phase 2b study, U-ACHIEVE

Verstockt, B.(1);Blink Polakow, S.(2);Mahi, N.(2);Lee, J.(2);Wang, J.(3);Guay, H.(4);Salas, A.(5);Panés, J.(5);Ungaro, R.C.(6);Vermeire, S.(1);

(1)University Hospitals Leuven & KU Leuven, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Leuven, Belgium;(2)AbbVie Inc, Immunology, North Chicago, United States;(3)AbbVie Inc, Genomic Research Center, Cambridge, United States;(4)AbbVie Inc, Bioresearch Center, Worcester, United States;(5)Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, IDIBAPS CIBERehd, Barcelona, Spain;(6)The Mount Sinai Hospital, Icahn School of Medicine, New York, United States;


Upadacitinib (UPA), an oral, reversible, Janus kinase (JAK)-1 selective inhibitor can induce clinical and endoscopic remission after 8 weeks in patients (pts) with moderately to severely active Ulcerative Colitis (UC). To provide mechanistic insights into downstream effects of UPA in the intestinal mucosa, we evaluated pharmacodynamic modulation of gene expression in colon biopsies from pts with UC in the Phase 2b study, U-ACHIEVE (NCT02819635). These analyses aimed to link molecular changes to clinical endpoints. 


Transcriptomic data were collected from rectosigmoid biopsies at baseline (BL) and Week (Wk) 8 in a subset of pts in sub-study 1 of U-ACHIEVE (N=88: placebo [PBO], n=15; pooled UPA 15, 30 & 45 mg, n=73). Samples underwent bulk RNA sequencing and differentially expressed genes (DEG) (false discovery rate [FDR]<0.05 & |log fold change [FC]|>1) from BL to Wk 8 were identified with linear mixed-effect models. DEG were analysed with KEGG and GO pathway enrichment and clinical endpoint responder analysis. Cellular profiling with gut cell deconvolution based on defined cell types was undertaken.


At Wk 8, expression of 695 gut genes was modulated (FDR<0.05 & |logFC|>1) from BL after UPA treatment compared with no DEG in PBO pts (including responders). Of these genes, ~70% (n=492) were downregulated and enriched in inflammatory pathways including T- and B-cell effector responses, neutrophil-mediated immunity, and leukocyte chemotaxis. Also, irrespective of directionality, most DEG from BL to Wk 8 in UPA-treated pts were associated with clinical response and remission, and histologic and endoscopic improvement. At Wk 8, deconvoluted cell fractions associated with adaptive but also innate inflammatory cells in the gut of UPA responders were decreased compared with non-responders; in contrast, fractions associated with enterocyte, secretory goblet cell and myofibroblast cells were increased in responder gut tissue (Fig 1). Modulation of genes associated with UC disease activity (OSM & S100A8/9 [calprotectin]), Th1 (TBX21, IFNG), Th2 (GATA3, IL5RA, IL13RA2), Th9 (SPI1), Th17 (IL17A, IL23A, IL21R), B-cell responses (BTK, CD40), barrier function (ESPN, VIL1, CLDN23, OCLN, MUC1/2/12/16/20) and wound repair (ANXA1/6/13, MMP7/9) were associated with clinical improvement at Wk 8 (Fig 2).

Figure 1

Figure 2


JAK inhibition with UPA is associated with transcriptional changes in colonic mucosa that are seen with UC disease pathophysiology. Clinical benefit mediated by UPA is associated with modulation of molecular biomarkers of UC disease activity, T-helper-cell differentiation, B-cell-mediated responses, gut barrier function and wound healing.

1. Menden K, et al. Sci Adv 2020;6:eaba2619