Macrophages and dendritic cells have been recognized as key players in the defense against mycobacterial infection. However, more recently, other cells in the lungs such as alveolar epithelial cells (AEC) have been found to play important roles in the defense and pathogenesis of infection. In the present study we first compared AEC with pulmonary macrophages (PuM) isolated from mice in their ability to internalize and control Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) growth and their capacity as APCs. AEC were able to internalize and control bacterial growth as well as present antigen to primed T cells. Secondly, we compared both cell types in their capacity to secrete cytokines and chemokines upon stimulation with various molecules including mycobacterial products. Activated PuM and AEC displayed different patterns of secretion. Finally, we analyzed the profile of response of AEC to diverse stimuli. AEC responded to both microbial and internal stimuli exemplified by TLR ligands and IFNs, respectively. The response included synthesis by AEC of several factors, known to have various effects in other cells. Interestingly, TNF could stimulate the production of CCL2/MCP-1. Since MCP-1 plays a role in the recruitment of monocytes and macrophages to sites of infection and macrophages are the main producers of TNF, we speculate that both cell types can stimulate each other. Also, another cell-cell interaction was suggested when IFNs (produced mainly by lymphocytes) were able to induce expression of chemokines (IP-10 and RANTES) by AEC involved in the recruitment of circulating lymphocytes to areas of injury, inflammation, or viral infection. In the current paper we confirm previous data on the capacity of AEC regarding internalization of mycobacteria and their role as APC, and extend the knowledge of AEC as a multifunctional cell type by assessing the secretion of a broad array of factors in response to several different types of stimuli. © 2012 Chuquimia et al.
Chuquimia, O. D., Petursdottir, D. H., Rahman, M. J., Hartl, K., Singh, M., & Fernández, C. (2012). The role of alveolar epithelial cells in initiating and shaping pulmonary immune responses: Communication between innate and adaptive immune systems. PLoS ONE, 7(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0032125