Cyclin-dependent kinase 9 as a potential target for anti-TNF resistant inflammatory bowel disease

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BACKGROUND & AIMS: Resistance to single cytokine blockade, namely anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy, is a growing concern for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The transcription factor T-bet is a critical regulator of intestinal homeostasis, is genetically linked to mucosal inflammation and controls the expression of multiples genes such as the pro-inflammatory cytokines interferon (IFN)-γ and TNF. Inhibiting T-bet may therefore offer a more attractive prospect for treating IBD but remains challenging to target therapeutically. In this study, we evaluate the effect of targeting the transactivation function of T-bet using inhibitors of P-TEFb (CDK9-cyclin T), a transcriptional elongation factor downstream of T-bet. METHODS: Using an adaptive immune-mediated colitis model, human colonic lymphocytes from patients with IBD and multiple large clinical datasets, we investigate the effect of cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) inhibitors on cytokine production and gene expression in colonic CD4+ T cells and link these genetic modules to clinical response in patients with IBD. RESULTS: Systemic CDK9 inhibition led to histological improvement of immune-mediated colitis and was associated with targeted suppression of colonic CD4+ T cell-derived IFN-γ and IL-17A. In colonic lymphocytes from patients with IBD, CDK9 inhibition potently repressed genes responsible for pro-inflammatory signalling, and in particular genes regulated by T-bet. Remarkably, CDK9 inhibition targeted genes that were highly expressed in anti-TNF resistant IBD and that predicted non-response to anti-TNF therapy. CONCLUSION: Collectively, our findings reveal CDK9 as a potential target for anti-TNF-resistant IBD, which has the potential for rapid translation to the clinic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-641
Number of pages17
JournalCellular and molecular gastroenterology and hepatology
Issue number3
Early online date1 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • CDK9
  • IBD
  • Crohn’s disease
  • ulcerative colitis
  • inflammation

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