: Glucocorticoid-induced leucin zipper (GILZ) mediates the effects of glucocorticoids in immune cells, but little is known about its role in both the gastro-intestinal (GI) mucosa and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) in humans. To investigate the GILZ protein expression profile in the GI tract, mucosal biopsies from 80 patients were retrospectively enrolled in this study and subdivided into three groups: 1) patients without clinical-endoscopic and histological evidence of IBD; 2) IBD patients; 3) patients with chronic atrophic gastritis (CAG) and Barrett esophagus (BE), both characterized by intestinal metaplasia (IM). GILZ expression was assessed by immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence methods. Our results showed that GILZ protein was strongly expressed in the secretory cells in healthy mucosa. GILZ expression was reduced in goblet cells in active disease, whereas it was restored in quiescent diseases. Conversely, entero-endocrine cells were not involved in such inflammation-driven dynamics, as GILZ expression remained detectable in active disease. Moreover, GILZ was expressed in IM, but was limited to CAG, and was not detected in BE. In summary, GILZ acts as a secretory protein in the GI mucosa in healthy, hyperplastic and metaplastic conditions. Its secretion by goblet cells is mostly affected by neutrophils mucosal infiltration and seems to be directly related to active mucosal inflammation in IBD. Overall, our findings suggest that GILZ is a suitable molecule to be considered as a histological marker of mucosal healing.
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