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Infect Immun. 2012 May;80(5):1690-8. doi: 10.1128/IAI.06176-11. Epub 2012 Feb 21.

Increase in Campylobacter jejuni invasion of intestinal epithelial cells under low-oxygen coculture conditions that reflect the in vivo environment.

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  • 1Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


Campylobacter jejuni infection often results in bloody, inflammatory diarrhea, indicating bacterial disruption and invasion of the intestinal epithelium. While C. jejuni infection can be reproduced in vitro using intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) lines, low numbers of bacteria invading IECs do not reflect these clinical symptoms. Performing in vitro assays under atmospheric oxygen conditions neither is optimal for microaerophilic C. jejuni nor reflects the low-oxygen environment of the intestinal lumen. A vertical diffusion chamber (VDC) model system creates microaerobic conditions at the apical surface and aerobic conditions at the basolateral surface of cultured IECs, producing an in vitro system that closely mimics in vivo conditions in the human intestine. Ninefold increases in interacting and 80-fold increases in intracellular C. jejuni 11168H wild-type strain bacteria were observed after 24-h coculture with Caco-2 IECs in VDCs under microaerobic conditions at the apical surface, compared to results under aerobic conditions. Increased bacterial interaction was matched by an enhanced and directional host innate immune response, particularly an increased basolateral secretion of the proinflammatory chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8). Analysis of the invasive ability of a nonmotile C. jejuni 11168H rpoN mutant in the VDC model system indicates that motility is an important factor in the early stages of bacterial invasion. The first report of the use of a VDC model system for studying the interactions of an invasive bacterial pathogen with IECs demonstrates the importance of performing such experiments under conditions that represent the in vivo situation and will allow novel insights into C. jejuni pathogenic mechanisms.

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