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Pediatr Res. 2003 Oct;54(4):536-41. Epub 2003 Jul 2.

Developmental aspects of Escherichia coli-induced innate responses in rat renal epithelial cells.

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Department of Women and Child Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.


Renal scarring after pyelonephritis is common in infancy. In this experimental study performed on tissue from 10-d-old infant and 40-d-old pubertal rats, several aspects of the renal innate immune response to a pyelonephritogenic strain of alpha-hemolysin-expressing Escherichia coli were compared. The kidney typically responds to urinary tract infection with release of proinflammatory cytokines, e.g. IL-6. Basal production of IL-6 from 10-d-old renal cortical tissue was approximately 20% of that from 40-d-old tissue. Six-hour incubation in the presence of supernatant from the E. coli culture caused an approximately 15-fold increase of IL-6 release in 10-d-old tissue and a 5-fold increase in 40-d-old tissue. The absolute level of IL-6 release in stimulated tissue was, however, significantly lower at 10 d than at 40 d. Lipopolysaccharide, the most immunogenic component of E. coli, signals via Toll-like receptor 4. Reverse transcriptase PCR performed on outer renal cortex indicated that expression of Toll-like receptor 4 mRNA was similar in both ages. Microdissection studies revealed that Toll-like receptor 4 mRNA was expressed in proximal tubules but not in glomeruli. The exotoxin alpha-hemolysin, expressed by a majority of uropathogenic E. coli isolates, stimulates IL-6 release via an alternative pathway that signals via intracellular calcium oscillations. We conclude that the higher susceptibility to pyelonephritic scarring is unlikely related to immaturity of innate immune system, as measured by cellular release of IL-6. Instead, the underlying mechanisms for pyelonephritic scarring are most likely multifactorial and may be mainly attributed to anatomic immaturity of the urinary tract.

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