The multifunctional host defense peptide SPLUNC1 is critical for homeostasis of the mammalian upper airway

PLoS One. 2010 Oct 7;5(10):e13224. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013224.


Otitis media (OM) is a highly prevalent pediatric disease caused by normal flora of the nasopharynx that ascend the Eustachian tube and enter the middle ear. As OM is a disease of opportunity, it is critical to gain an increased understanding of immune system components that are operational in the upper airway and aid in prevention of this disease. SPLUNC1 is an antimicrobial host defense peptide that is hypothesized to contribute to the health of the airway both through bactericidal and non-bactericidal mechanisms. We used small interfering RNA (siRNA) technology to knock down expression of the chinchilla ortholog of human SPLUNC1 (cSPLUNC1) to begin to determine the role that this protein played in prevention of OM. We showed that knock down of cSPLUNC1 expression did not impact survival of nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae, a predominant causative agent of OM, in the chinchilla middle ear under the conditions tested. In contrast, expression of cSPLUNC1 was essential for maintenance of middle ear pressure and efficient mucociliary clearance, key defense mechanisms of the tubotympanum. Collectively, our data have provided the first in vivo evidence that cSPLUNC1 functions to maintain homeostasis of the upper airway and, thereby, is critical for protection of the middle ear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Infections / genetics
  • Chinchilla
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gene Silencing
  • Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Otitis Media / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology*
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Surface-Active Agents / metabolism
  • Trachea / physiology*


  • BPIFA1 protein, human
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Glycoproteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Surface-Active Agents