Regulation of cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide expression by an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress signaling, vitamin D receptor-independent pathway

J Biol Chem. 2011 Sep 30;286(39):34121-30. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.250431. Epub 2011 Aug 8.


Vitamin D receptor (VDR)-dependent mechanisms regulate human cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide (CAMP)/LL-37 in various cell types, but CAMP expression also increases after external perturbations (such as infection, injuries, UV irradiation, and permeability barrier disruption) in parallel with induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. We demonstrate that CAMP mRNA and protein expression increase in epithelial cells (human primary keratinocytes, HaCaT keratinocytes, and HeLa cells), but not in myeloid (U937 and HL-60) cells, following ER stress generated by two mechanistically different, pharmacological stressors, thapsigargin or tunicamycin. The mechanism for increased CAMP following exposure to ER stress involves NF-κB activation leading to CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein α (C/EBPα) activation via MAP kinase-mediated phosphorylation. Furthermore, both increased CAMP secretion and its proteolytic processing to LL-37 are required for antimicrobial activities occur following ER stress. In addition, topical thapsigargin also increases production of the murine homologue of CAMP in mouse epidermis. Finally and paradoxically, ER stress instead suppresses the 1,25(OH)(2) vitamin D(3)-induced activation of VDR, but blockade of VDR activity does not alter ER stress-induced CAMP up-regulation. Hence, ER stress increases CAMP expression via NF-κB-C/EBPα activation, independent of VDR, illuminating a novel VDR-independent role for ER stress in stimulating innate immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / biosynthesis*
  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides / genetics
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Cathelicidins
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / genetics
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism*
  • Epidermal Cells
  • Epidermis / metabolism
  • HL-60 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • NF-kappa B / genetics
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Organ Specificity / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*
  • U937 Cells
  • Unfolded Protein Response / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / physiology*


  • Antimicrobial Cationic Peptides
  • CCAAT-Enhancer-Binding Proteins
  • CEBPA protein, human
  • CEBPA protein, mouse
  • NF-kappa B
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Cathelicidins