Oral mucositis is a common side effect of cancer chemotherapy, with significant adverse impact on the delivery of anti-neoplastic treatment. There is a lack of consensus regarding the role of oral commensal microorganisms in the initiation or progression of mucositis because relevant experimental models are non-existent. The goal of this study was to develop an in vitro mucosal injury model that mimics chemotherapy-induced mucositis, where the effect of oral commensals can be studied. A novel organotypic model of chemotherapy-induced mucositis was developed based on a human oral epithelial cell line and a fibroblast-embedded collagen matrix. Treatment of organotypic constructs with 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) reproduced major histopathologic characteristics of oral mucositis, such as DNA synthesis inhibition, apoptosis and cytoplasmic vacuolation, without compromising the three-dimensional structure of the multilayer organotypic mucosa. Although structural integrity of the model was preserved, 5-FU treatment resulted in a widening of epithelial intercellular spaces, characterized by E-cadherin dissolution from adherens junctions. In a neutrophil transmigration assay we discovered that this treatment facilitated transport of neutrophils through epithelial layers. Moreover, 5-FU treatment stimulated key proinflammatory cytokines that are associated with the pathogenesis of oral mucositis. 5-FU treatment of mucosal constructs did not significantly affect fungal or bacterial biofilm growth under the conditions tested in this study; however, it exacerbated the inflammatory response to certain bacterial and fungal commensals. These findings suggest that commensals may play a role in the pathogenesis of oral mucositis by amplifying the proinflammatory signals to mucosa that is injured by cytotoxic chemotherapy.
Keywords: Candida; Streptococcus; adherens junction; chemotherapy; cytokine; oral mucositis.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.