Tofacitinib inhibits inflammatory cytokines from ulcerative colitis and healthy mucosal explants and is associated with p-STAT1/3 reduction in T-cells

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March 10, 2021
Am. J. Physiol. Gastrointest. Liver Physiol.; 320(3):G396-G410 (2021).
R. M. Brand, B. A. Moore, A. Zyhowski, A. Siegel, S. Uttam, E. J. Metter, J. Engstrom, R. E. Brand, N. Biswas, D. C. Whitcomb, D. G. Binion, M. Schwartz, I. McGowan

Poor translatability of animal disease models has hampered the development of new inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) therapeutics. We describe a preclinical, ex vivo system using freshly obtained and well-characterized human colorectal tissue from patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) and healthy control (HC) participants to test potential therapeutics for efficacy and target engagement, using the JAK/STAT inhibitor tofacitinib (TOFA) as a model therapeutic. Colorectal biopsies from HC participants and patients with UC were cultured and stimulated with multiple mitogens ± TOFA. Soluble biomarkers were detected using a 29-analyte multiplex ELISA. Target engagement in CD3+CD4+ and CD3+CD8+ T-cells was determined by flow cytometry in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and isolated mucosal mononuclear cells (MMCs) following the activation of STAT1/3 phosphorylation. Data were analyzed using linear mixed-effects modeling, t test, and analysis of variance. Biomarker selection was performed using penalized and Bayesian logistic regression modeling, with results visualized using uniform manifold approximation and projection. Under baseline conditions, 27 of 29 biomarkers from patients with UC were increased versus HC participants. Explant stimulation increased biomarker release magnitude, expanding the dynamic range for efficacy and target engagement studies. Logistic regression analyses identified the most representative UC baseline and stimulated biomarkers. TOFA inhibited biomarkers dependent on JAK/STAT signaling. STAT1/3 phosphorylation in T-cells revealed compartmental differences between PBMCs and MMCs. Immunogen stimulation increases biomarker release in similar patterns for HC participants and patients with UC, while enhancing the dynamic range for pharmacological effects. This work demonstrates the power of ex vivo human colorectal tissue as preclinical tools for evaluating target engagement and downstream effects of new IBD therapeutic agents.