Corticosteroid and cytokines synergistically enhance toll-like receptor 2 expression in respiratory epithelial cells

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2004 Oct;31(4):463-9. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2004-0161OC. Epub 2004 Jul 8.


Respiratory epithelial cells play important roles not only in host defense mechanisms, but also in inflammatory responses. Inhaled corticosteroids are widely used for the treatment of patients with inflammatory lung disorders, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and sarcoidosis. Corticosteroids effectively reduce the production of inflammatory mediators, such as cytokines and chemokines. Although these molecules are also essential for host defense responses, there is no convincing evidence that inhaled corticosteroids increase susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections. To test the involvement of Toll-like receptor (TLR) family molecules in this phenomenon, we examined the effects of various cytokines and corticosteroid on the expression of TLRs in human respiratory epithelial cells. Among the TLRs tested, TLR2 expression was significantly enhanced after stimulation with a combination of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma. Dexamethasone synergistically enhanced TLR2 expression in combination with tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interferon-gamma in terms of both mRNA and protein levels. Furthermore, increased cell-surface TLR2 was functional, judging from the remarkable induction of interleukin-6, interleukin-8, and beta-defensin-2 after stimulation with peptidoglycan. These results provide evidence for a novel function of corticosteroids in airway inflammatory disorders, and indicate that the use of inhaled corticosteroids in such disorders may have a beneficial role in host defense mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology
  • Bronchi / cytology
  • Bronchi / immunology
  • Bronchi / metabolism*
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage
  • Drug Synergism*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / immunology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-8 / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism*
  • Peptidoglycan / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / administration & dosage
  • beta-Defensins / metabolism


  • DEFB4A protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukin-8
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Peptidoglycan
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • TLR2 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 2
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • beta-Defensins
  • Dexamethasone
  • Interferon-gamma