Neuroendocrine Cells Are Commonly Absent in the Intestinal Crypts in Autoimmune Enteropathy

Hee Eun Lee, Lin Yuan, Tsung Teh Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The absence of neuroendocrine (NE) cells in the intestinal mucosa in autoimmune enteropathy (AIE) has been occasionally reported. However, the status of NE cells has not been studied in detail in AIE. Small bowel and colonic biopsies were retrospectively retrieved from 18 AIE patients (26 baseline [18 small bowel and 8 colon]; and 15 follow-up [11 duodenum and 4 colon] biopsies in 11 patients). Thirty-three common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) patients (30 small bowel and 16 colon), 15 inflammatory bowel disease patients (5 duodenum and 10 colon), 13 immunoglobulinA deficiency patients (13 duodenum and 5 colon), and 10 normal controls (5 colon and 5 duodenum) were selected as control groups. Histologic features (villous atrophy, intraepithelial lymphocytosis, acute inflammation, crypt apoptosis, and absence or presence of goblet cells, Paneth cells and plasma cells) were recorded. Chromogranin immunostain was performed and chromogranin-positive NE cells were counted per 10 consecutive, well-oriented crypts. On the basis of the number of chromogranin-positive NE cells, cases were graded as being absent (≤3 NE cells), markedly decreased (≤15), and intact (#x0003E;15). The NE cell status correlated with histologic features. The median age of 18 AIE patients was 38.5 years (range: 11 to 74 y) and 14 patients were male. Fourteen of 18 (78#x00025;) patients showed loss (absent or markedly decreased) of NE cells in the small bowel and/or colon in the baseline biopsies including 12 (of 18) small bowel and 6 (of 8) colon biopsies. Follow-up biopsy was available in 11 patients. Six of 7 (85#x00025;) patients who showed loss of NE cells in the baseline biopsies regained NE cells in the follow-up biopsies, and 1 patient continued to show loss of NE cells. Four patients who showed intact NE cells in the baseline remained unchanged in the follow-up. Among the control groups, 3 of 33 (9#x00025;) CVID patients showed loss of NE cells. NE cells were not lost in the biopsies of all 15 and 13 patients with inflammatory bowel disease and immunoglobulinA deficiency, respectively, or the 10 normal controls. In all 41 biopsies (26 baseline plus 15 follow-up) with AIE, NE cell loss was significantly associated with increased crypt apoptosis and loss of goblet cells (P=0.001, both) but not with other histologic findings. In conclusion, our study suggests that NE cells may also be the target cells in AIE and commonly lost in the intestinal crypts in AIE, and consequently loss of NE cells can be used as an adjunct histologic feature for diagnosis of AIE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1130-1136
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • autoimmune enteropathy
  • colon
  • common variable immunodeficiency
  • histopathology
  • neuroendocrine cells
  • small intestine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Surgery
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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