Antiinflammatory role of MUC1 mucin during infection with nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2012 Feb;46(2):149-56. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2011-0142OC.


MUC1 (or Muc1 in nonhuman species) is a membrane-tethered mucin expressed on the apical surface of mucosal epithelia (including those of the airways) that suppresses Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling. We sought to determine whether the anti-inflammatory effect of MUC1 is operative during infection with nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi), and if so, which TLR pathway was affected. Our results showed that: (1) a lysate of NTHi increased the early release of IL-8 and later production of MUC1 protein by A549 cells in dose-dependent and time-dependent manners, compared with vehicle control; (2) both effects were attenuated after transfection of the cells with a TLR2-targeting small interfering (si) RNA, compared with a control siRNA; (3) the NTHi-induced release of IL-8 was suppressed by an overexpression of MUC1, and was enhanced by the knockdown of MUC1; (4) the TNF-α released after treatment with NTHi was sufficient to up-regulate MUC1, which was completely inhibited by pretreatment with a soluble TNF-α receptor; and (5) primary murine tracheal surface epithelial (MTSE) cells from Muc1 knockout mice exhibited an increased in vitro production of NTHi-stimulated keratinocyte chemoattractant compared with MTSE cells from Muc1-expressing animals. These results suggest a hypothetical feedback loop model whereby NTHi activates TLRs (mainly TLR2) in airway epithelial cells, leading to the increased production of TNF-α and IL-8, which subsequently up-regulate the expression of MUC1, resulting in suppressed TLR signaling and decreased production of IL-8. This report is the first, to the best of our knowledge, demonstrating that the inflammatory response in airway epithelial cells during infection with NTHi is controlled by MUC1 mucin, mainly through the suppression of TLR2 signaling.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • DNA Primers
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Haemophilus influenzae / classification
  • Haemophilus influenzae / pathogenicity*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Mucin-1 / genetics
  • Mucin-1 / physiology*


  • Cytokines
  • DNA Primers
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1