The transmembrane protein occludin of epithelial tight junctions is a functional target for serine peptidases from faecal pellets of Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus

Clin Exp Allergy. 2001 Feb;31(2):279-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2222.2001.00970.x.


There have been only a few studies of how allergens cross the airway epithelium to cause allergic sensitization. House dust mite fecal pellets (HDMFP) contain several proteolytic enzymes. Group 1 allergens are cysteine peptidases, whilst those of groups 3, 6 and 9 have catalytic sites indicative of enzymes that mechanistically behave as serine peptidases. We have previously shown that the group 1 allergen Der p 1 leads to cleavage of tight junctions (TJs), allowing allergen delivery to antigen presenting cells. In this study we determined whether HDMFP serine peptidases similarly compromise the airway epithelium by attacking TJs, desmosomes and adherens junctions. Experiments were performed in monolayers of MDCK, Calu-3 or 16HBE14o-epithelial cells. Cell junction morphology was examined by 2-photon molecular excitation microscopy and digital image analysis. Barrier function was measured as mannitol permeability. Cleavage of cell adhesion proteins was studied by immunoblotting and mass spectrometry. HDMFP serine peptidases led to a progressive cleavage of TJs and increased epithelial permeability. Desmosomal puncta became more concentrated. Cleavage of TJs involved proteolysis of the TJ proteins, occludin and ZO-1. This was associated with activation of intracellular proteolysis of ZO-1. In contrast to occludin, E-cadherin of adherens junctions was cleaved less extensively. Although Calu-3 and 16HBE14o-cells expressed tethered ligand receptors for serine peptidases, these were not responsible for transducing the changes in TJs. HDMFP serine peptidases cause cleavage of TJs. This study identifies a second general class of HDM peptidase capable of increasing epithelial permeability and thereby creating conditions that would favour transepithelial delivery of allergens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Cadherins / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane Permeability / drug effects
  • Desmosomes / drug effects
  • Dogs
  • Feces / enzymology
  • Glycoproteins / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mites / enzymology*
  • Mites / immunology
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Occludin
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Receptor, PAR-1
  • Receptors, Thrombin / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Thrombin / genetics
  • Respiratory Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Serine Endopeptidases / pharmacology*
  • Tight Junctions / drug effects*
  • Tight Junctions / ultrastructure
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein


  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Cadherins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Proteins
  • OCLN protein, human
  • Occludin
  • Ocln protein, mouse
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptor, PAR-1
  • Receptors, Thrombin
  • TJP1 protein, human
  • Tjp1 protein, mouse
  • Zonula Occludens-1 Protein
  • Serine Endopeptidases