Letter to the Editor Open Access
Copyright ©The Author(s) 2022. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Sep 21, 2022; 28(35): 5230-5232
Published online Sep 21, 2022. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i35.5230
Urotensin II level is elevated in inflammatory bowel disease patients
Yan Zhang, Guo-Xun Chen
Yan Zhang, Department of Gastroenterology, Affiliated Puren Hospital of Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430081, Hubei Province, China
Guo-Xun Chen, Department of Nutrition, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, United States
ORCID number: Yan Zhang (0000-0002-0620-5803); Guo-Xun Chen (0000-0001-6226-4050).
Author contributions: Zhang Y and Chen GX read the commented article, wrote the letter, and revised the letter according to the reviewers’ comments; all authors have read and approved the final version of this manuscript.
Conflict-of-interest statement: There are no conflicts of interest to report.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: https://creativecommons.org/Licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Corresponding author: Guo-Xun Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, Research Scientist, Department of Nutrition, The University of Tennessee, Room 229, Jessie Harris Building, 1512 West Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville, TN 37996, United States. gchen6@utk.edu
Received: January 27, 2022
Peer-review started: January 27, 2022
First decision: April 10, 2022
Revised: April 13, 2022
Accepted: September 1, 2022
Article in press: September 1, 2022
Published online: September 21, 2022


It was reported that the urotensin II (U-II) level in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients are significantly higher than in controls. To provide future guidance for the management of cardiovascular risk factors in IBD patients, the sample size of the current study appears to be limited, and more clinical samples to compare U-II levels in IBD patients and controls are needed. This will clarify the possible roles of inflammation factors and related signaling pathways (like EPK1/2, NF-κB and Rho/ROCK) in the pathophysiology of IBD. Therefore, large multicenter studies should be done to confirm the findings and underlying mechanisms in the future.

Key Words: Inflammatory bowel disease, Urotensin II, Inflammatory factors, High sensitivity C reactive peptide

Core Tip: An observational report showed that the level of urotensin II (U-II) in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients was significantly increased compared with that in controls. The authors also reported that blood U-II level was positively correlated with high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and severe endoscopic features of the disease. This study provides us with a new role of U-II in IBD, which warrants larger, multicenter clinical and basic studies to determine the mechanisms by which U-II triggers inflammatory responses and activates signaling pathways (EPK1/2, NF-κB and Rho/ROCK).


We read the observational study reported by Alicic et al[1], who have convincingly shown the role of elevated urotensin II (U-II) level in patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD comprising Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) is a multifactorial condition of relapsing chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract with an unpredictable course[2]. In addition, extraintestinal manifestations of IBD cardiovascular risk factors occur frequently and contribute to morbidity and reduced quality of life[3-5].

U-II is a peptide ligand that acts as a potent vasoconstrictor, which was originally discovered four decades ago. The vasoconstriction activity of U-II is 10-fold more potent than that of endothelin-1[6]. Most studies of U-II have been conducted to understand its role in the development of cardiovascular diseases[7]. A growing number of scholars have recognized the links of U-II levels with malignant lesions associated with the liver, pancreas and gut[8]. Whether U-II participates in the initiation and progress of IBD has always intrigued contemporary gastroenterologists. This observational study reported the potential relationship of U-II and IBD, which provides the field with new knowledge and attracted our attention.

Alicic et al[1] compared the blood level of U-II in IBD patients and healthy controls, and investigated the association of U-II levels with the anthropometric, clinical and biochemical parameters. The study included 50 adult patients with prediagnosed IBD (24 with UC and 26 with CD) and 50 healthy, age- and gender-matched controls. IBD patients had significantly higher U-II level than control subjects had. Significant positive correlations between serum U-II level and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) level, UC Endoscopic Index of Severity and Simple Endoscopic Score for CD were observed. Whether these clinical data imply the involvement of U-II in the inflammatory responses and disease outcomes of IBD patients remains to be confirmed.

The action of U-II is mediated by U-II receptor (UTR). UTR is also called GPR14, which is a G-protein-linked receptor[9]. Both U-II and UTR can be found in various cells of the cardiovascular, pulmonary and central nervous systems, kidneys, and other metabolic organs and tissues. The biding of U-II as a ligand activates UTR, which mobilizes calcium in the cytoplasm, induces proliferation of smooth myocytes, and triggers inflammation[10,11]. As expected, the level of inflammatory factor hsCRP in IBD patients is significantly higher than that in healthy controls.

The study by Alicic et al[1] is the first clinical study to investigate blood UII level in both UC and CD patients. However, limitations can be seen, which could bolster the authors’ conclusions if resolved: (1) This single center study only had 50 subjects each in the IBD and control groups. If more institutions were included in a multicenter investigation and more patients were recruited, the conclusions would become more convincing and relevant. Therefore, large multicenter studies are anticipated in the future; and (2) the results showed that elevation of blood U-II level was associated with disease development and progression, and attributed to the inflammation mediated by hsCRP. However, the levels of other inflammatory factors were not measured (e.g., interleukin-6, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α). Their level and involvement in the elevated U-II concentration and inflammatory responses in those patients should be clarified. Regarding the mechanisms, it is possible that U-II as a ligand activates pathways that stimulate the release of inflammatory effectors, such as the cytokines listed above. These cytokines may potently activate signaling pathways consisting of EPK1/2, NF-κB and Rho/ROCK, which regulate a variety of downstream inflammatory responses[12-14]. Whether those cytokines and U-II act against each other or in concert to form a system influencing the host inflammation status remains to be answered. In the future, gastroenterologists should investigate how U-II interacts with other inflammatory mediators, and how U-II modifies those signaling pathways to potentiate IBD severity in various in vivo and in vitro systems. In so doing, more results could be collected and analyzed, which are needed to form theoretical and practical evidence to guide prevention and treatment of cardiovascular complications in IBD. Additionally, antagonists to the UTR activation system could also be developed, which may counteract any detrimental effects due to increased level of U-II in patients with IBD.


Provenance and peer review: Unsolicited article; Externally peer reviewed.

Peer-review model: Single blind

Specialty type: Gastroenterology and hepatology

Country/Territory of origin: United States

Peer-review report’s scientific quality classification

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Grade B (Very good): B

Grade C (Good): C, C

Grade D (Fair): 0

Grade E (Poor): 0

P-Reviewer: Tajra JBM, Brazil; Wen XL, China S-Editor: Chen YL L-Editor: Kerr C P-Editor: Chen YL

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