Background and purpose: Lung epithelial cells express pattern recognition receptors, which react to bacteria. We have evaluated the effect of Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria on interleukin-8 (CXCL8) release from epithelial cells and the integrity of the epithelial barrier. Experimental approach: Primary cultures of human airway epithelial cells and the epithelial cell line A549 were used, and CXCL8 release was measured after exposure to Gram-negative or Gram-positive bacteria. Epithelial barrier function was assessed in monolayer cultures of A549 cells. Results: Gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pneumoniae, induced release of CXCL8 from human airway epithelial cells. These bacteria also disrupted barrier function in A549 cells, an effect mimicked by CXCL8 and blocked by specific binding antibodies to CXCL8. Gram-negative bacteria Escherichia coli or Pseudomonas aeruginosa induced greater release of CXCL8 than Gram-positive bacteria. However, Gram-negative bacteria did not affect epithelial barrier function directly, but prevented disruption induced by Gram-positive bacteria. These effects of Gram-negative bacteria on barrier function were mimicked by FK565, an agonist of the nucleotide-binding oligomerization domain 1 (NOD1) receptor, but not by the Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 agonist bacterial lipopolysaccharide. Neither the Gram-negative bacteria nor FK565 blocked CXCL8 release. Conclusions: These data show differential functional responses induced by Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria in human lung epithelial cells. The NOD1 receptors may have a role in preventing disruption of the epithelial barrier in lung, during inflammatory states.
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