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Immunology. 2008 Jul;124(3):401-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2567.2007.02788.x. Epub 2008 Jan 22.

Cigarette smoke increases Toll-like receptor 4 and modifies lipopolysaccharide-mediated responses in airway epithelial cells.

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  • 1Istituto di Biomedicina e Immunologia Molecolare, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Palermo, Italy.


Airway epithelium is emerging as a regulator of innate immune responses to a variety of insults including cigarette smoke. The main goal of this study was to explore the effects of cigarette smoke extracts (CSE) on Toll-like receptor (TLR) expression and activation in a human bronchial epithelial cell line (16-HBE). The CSE increased the expression of TLR4 and the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) binding, the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation, the release of interleukin-8 (IL-8) and the chemotactic activity toward neutrophils. It did not induce TLR2 expression or extracellular signal-regulated signal kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) activation. The LPS increased the expression of TLR4 and induced both NF-kappaB and ERK1/2 activation. The combined exposure of 16-HBE to CSE and LPS was associated with ERK activation rather than NF-kappaB activation and with a further increase of IL-8 release and of chemotactic activity toward neutrophils. Furthermore, CSE decreased the constitutive interferon-inducible protein-10 (IP-10) release and counteracted the effect of LPS in inducing both the IP-10 release and the chemotactic activity toward lymphocytes. In conclusion, cigarette smoke, by altering the expression and the activation of TLR4 via the preferential release of IL-8, may contribute to the accumulation of neutrophils within the airways of smokers.

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