Two markers related to preneoplasia were studied simultaneously in ulcerative colitis (DC). The renewal of the rectal epithelial cells together with expression of second-trimester fetal antigen (STFA) were evaluated in nine patients with UC and four healthy subjects. Endoscopie biopsies were incubated with trillateci thymidine. Cell renewal was studied with microautoradiography, and the antigenic properties of the cells were evaluated by indirect immunofluorescence. At the time of the study, all the UC patients were in a mildly active or in a quiescent stage of the disease; their biopsies did not show dysplastic or neoplastic changes in epithelial cells. STFA was expressed in five UC patients. The analysis of cell renewal in this group revealed a shift of the proliferative compartment towards the luminal surface of the colonie crypts. By contrast, the patient group with STFA-negative reactions showed a pattern of cell proliferation similar to that observed in the controls.

These results suggest that the expression of STFA in colonie mucosa is associated with an expansion of the epithelial stem cell population or with arrested cell differentiation, and it may represent a phenotypic marker of proneness of the mucosa toward neoplastic development.


This investigation was partially supported by Grant Cap 12-6R imp. 21917, awarded by Ministero Pubblica Instruzione, Italy (Art. 286).

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