Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease characterized by severe neutrophil-dominated airway inflammation. An important cause of inflammation in CF is Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. We have evaluated the importance of a number of P. aeruginosa components, namely lipopeptides, LPS, and unmethylated CpG DNA, as proinflammatory stimuli in CF by characterizing the expression and functional activity of their cognate receptors, TLR2/6 or TLR2/1, TLR4, and TLR9, respectively, in a human tracheal epithelial line, CFTE29o(-), which is homozygous for the DeltaF508 CF transmembrane conductance regulator mutation. We also characterized TLR expression and function in a non-CF airway epithelial cell line 16HBE14o(-). Using RT-PCR, we demonstrated TLR mRNA expression. TLR cell surface expression was assessed by fluorescence microscopy. Lipopeptides, LPS, and unmethylated CpG DNA induced IL-8 and IL-6 protein production in a time- and dose-dependent manner. The CF and non-CF cell lines were largely similar in their TLR expression and relative TLR responses. ICAM-1 expression was also up-regulated in CFTE29o(-) cells following stimulation with each agonist. CF bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, which contains LPS, bacterial DNA, and neutrophil elastase (a neutrophil-derived protease that can activate TLR4), up-regulated an NF-kappaB-linked reporter gene and increased IL-8 protein production in CFTE29o(-) cells. This effect was abrogated by expression of dominant-negative versions of MyD88 or Mal, key signal transducers for TLRs, thereby implicating them as potential anti-inflammatory agents for CF.
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