Short palate, lung, and nasal epithelium clone 1 (SPLUNC1) protein is highly expressed in normal airways, but is dramatically decreased in allergic and cigarette smoke exposure settings. We have previously demonstrated SPLUNC1 in vitro antibacterial property against Mycoplasma pneumoniae (Mp). However, its in vivo biological functions remain unclear. The objectives of this study were to determine the in vivo functions of SPLUNC1 following bacterial (eg, Mp) infection, and to examine the underlying mechanisms. We generated SPLUNC1-deficient mice and utilized transgenic mice overexpressing human SPLUNC1 exclusively within the airway epithelium. These mice were infected with Mp and, twenty-four hours post infection, their host defense responses were compared to littermate controls. Mp levels and inflammatory cells increased in the lungs of SPLUNC1(-/-) mice as compared to wild type controls. SPLUNC1 deficiency was shown to contribute to impaired neutrophil activation. In contrast, mice overexpressing hSPLUNC1 exclusively in airway epithelial cells demonstrated lower Mp levels. Furthermore, neutrophil elastase activity was significantly increased in mice overexpressing hSPLUNC1. Lastly, we demonstrated that SPLUNC1 enhanced Mp-induced human neutrophil elastase (HNE) activity, and HNE directly inhibited the growth of Mp. Our findings demonstrate a critical in vivo role of SPLUNC1 in host defense against bacterial infection, and likely provide a novel therapeutic approach to restore impaired lung innate immune responses to bacteria in patients with chronic lung diseases.
Copyright © 2011 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.