Mice lacking T cell receptor alpha chain (TCRα(-/-)) develop inflammation of the colon. We have examined the effect of this inflammation on the colonic epithelium by studying markers of epithelial cuff, enteroendocrine, and immune cell differentiation. Using immunohistochemical techniques, colons were compared in normal C57/BL6 and murine TCR α(-/-) mice aged 2 and 3 weeks and 3-11 months. TCR α(-/-) mice aged 3-11 months had histologic evidence of inflammation with increased expression of CD45, CD4+, CD8+, and B220+ cells and a decrease in expression of IgA+ cells. There was a decrease in the number of cholecystokinin, serotonin, and neurotensin enteroendocrine expressing cells in the colon of TCR α(-/-) mice. These changes were not present in 2-3-week-old suckling/weaning mice. In contrast, peptide tyrosine tyrosine (PYY), glucagon-like peptide-1, and gastrin expression did not change and small intestinal enteroendocrine cells remained unaltered. The change in colonic enteroendocrine cell expression appears to be a specific response, since only a subset of these cells was altered, and the epithelium was intact by histologic analysis. The absence of functional T cells in TCR α(-/-) colon has a marked effect on differentiation of a specific subpopulation of enteroendocrine cells, prior to loss of integrity of the epithelium. (C) 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.