Free-living amoebae of the Acanthamoeba species are the causative agent of Acanthamoeba keratitis (AK), a sight-threatening corneal infection that causes severe pain and a characteristic ring-shaped corneal infiltrate. Innate immune responses play an important role in resistance against AK. The aim of this study is to determine if Toll-like receptors (TLRs) on corneal epithelial cells are activated by Acanthamoeba, leading to initiation of inflammatory responses in the cornea. Human corneal epithelial (HCE) cells constitutively expressed TLR1, TLR2, TLR3, TLR4, and TLR9 mRNA, and A. castellanii upregulated TLR4 transcription. Expression of TLR1, TLR2, TLR3, and TLR9 was unchanged when HCE cells were exposed to A. castellanii. IL-8 mRNA expression was upregulated in HCE cells exposed to A. castellanii. A. castellanii and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced significant IL-8 production by HCE cells as measured by ELISA. The percentage of total cells positive for TLR4 was higher in A. castellanii stimulated HCE cells compared to unstimulated HCE cells. A. castellanii induced upregulation of IL-8 in TLR4 expressing human embryonic kidney (HEK)-293 cells, but not TLR3 expressing HEK-293 cells. TLR4 neutralizing antibody inhibited A. castellanii-induced IL-8 by HCE and HEK-293 cells. Clinical strains but not soil strains of Acanthamoeba activated TLR4 expression in Chinese hamster corneas in vivo and in vitro. Clinical isolates but not soil isolates of Acanthamoeba induced significant (P< 0.05) CXCL2 production in Chinese hamster corneas 3 and 7 days after infection, which coincided with increased inflammatory cells in the corneas. Results suggest that pathogenic species of Acanthamoeba activate TLR4 and induce production of CXCL2 in the Chinese hamster model of AK. TLR4 may be a potential target in the development of novel treatment strategies in Acanthamoeba and other microbial infections that activate TLR4 in corneal cells. © 2014 Alizadeh et al.
Alizadeh, H., Tripathi, T., Abdi, M., & Smith, A. D. (2014). Pathogenic strains of Acanthamoeba are recognized by TLR4 and initiated inflammatory responses in the cornea. PLoS ONE, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0092375