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Transcriptional Behavior of Regulatory T Cells Predicts IBD Patient Responses to Vedolizumab Therapy

Maria T Abreu, Julie M Davies, Maria A Quintero, Amber Delmas, Sophia Diaz, Catherine D Martinez, Thomas Venables , Adrian Reich, Gogce Crynen, Amar R Deshpande, David H Kerman, Oriana M Damas, Irina Fernandez, Ana M Santander, Judith Pignac-Kobinger, Juan F Burgueno, Mark S Sundrud

Published in Aug 2022, Inflammatory bowel diseases.


Background Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) involves chronic T cell–mediated inflammatory responses. Vedolizumab (VDZ), a monoclonal antibody against α4β7 integrin, inhibits lymphocyte extravasation into intestinal mucosae and is effective in ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD).

Aim We sought to identify immune cell phenotypic and gene expression signatures that related to response to VDZ.

Methods Peripheral blood (PBMC) and lamina propria mononuclear cells (LPMCs) were analyzed by flow cytometry and Cytofkit. Sorted CD4 + memory (Tmem) or regulatory T (Treg) cells from PBMC and LPMC were analyzed by RNA sequencing (RNA-seq). Clinical response (≥2-point drop in partial Mayo scores [UC] or Harvey-Bradshaw index [CD]) was assessed 14 to 22 weeks after VDZ initiation. Machine-learning models were used to infer combinatorial traits that predicted response to VDZ.

Results Seventy-one patients were enrolled: 37 received VDZ and 21 patients remained on VDZ >2 years. Fourteen of 37 patients (38%; 8 UC, 6 CD) responded to VDZ. Immune cell phenotypes and CD4 + Tmem and Treg transcriptional behaviors were most divergent between the ileum and colon, irrespective of IBD subtype or inflammation status. Vedolizumab treatment had the greatest impact on Treg metabolic pathways, and response was associated with increased expression of genes involved in oxidative phosphorylation. The strongest clinical predictor of VDZ efficacy was concurrent use of thiopurines. Mucosal tissues offered the greatest number of response-predictive biomarkers, whereas PBMC Treg-expressed genes were the best predictors in combinatorial models of response.

Conclusions Mucosal and peripheral blood immune cell phenotypes and transcriptional profiles can inform VDZ efficacy and inform new opportunities for combination therapies.


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