Background: The airway epithelium participates in asthmatic inflammation in many ways. Target cells of the epithelium can respond to a variety of inflammatory mediators and cytokines. Damage to the surface epithelium occurs following the secretion of eosinophil-derived, highly toxic cationic proteins. Moreover, the surface epithelium itself is responsible for the synthesis and release of cytokines that cause the selective recruitment, retention, and accumulation of various inflammatory cells. To mimic the damage seen during asthmatic inflammation, the bronchial epithelium can be challenged with highly charged cationic polypeptides such as poly-L-arginine.
Methodology/principal findings: In this study, human bronchial epithelial cells, 16HBE14o- cells, were "chemically injured" by exposing them to poly-l-arginine as a surrogate of the eosinophil cationic protein. Cytokine antibody array data showed that seven inflammatory mediators were elevated out of the 40 tested, including marked elevation in interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8 secretion. IL-6 and IL-8 mRNA expression levels were elevated as measured with real-time PCR. Cell culture supernatants from apical and basolateral compartments were collected, and the IL-6 and IL-8 production was quantified with ELISA. IL-6 and IL-8 secretion by 16HBE14o- epithelia into the apical compartment was significantly higher than that from the basolateral compartment. Using specific inhibitors, the production of IL-6 and IL-8 was found to be dependent on p38 MAPK, ERK1/2 MAPK, and NF-kappaB pathways.
Conclusions/significance: The results clearly demonstrate that damage to the bronchial epithelia by poly-L-arginine stimulates polarized IL-6 and IL-8 secretion. This apically directed secretion of cytokines may play an important role in orchestrating epithelial cell responses to inflammation.