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Immunology. 2006 Jun;118(2):164-70.

Dependence on p38 MAPK signalling in the up-regulation of TLR2, TLR4 and TLR9 gene expression in Trichomonas vaginalis-treated HeLa cells.

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Institute of Basic Medical Science, Wonju College of Medicine, Yonsei University, Wonju, Korea.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that recognize conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) synthesized by micro-organisms. Despite the essential requirement for TLRs in prokaryotic infection, the pattern and regulation of TLR gene expression by Trichomonas vaginalis in the mucocutaneous barrier are still unknown. Our hypothesis is that T. vaginalis-infected epithelial cells are major effector cells in the skin barrier. These cells function as a central regulator of TLR gene expression, thus accelerating the process of barrier dysfunction via increased release of chemokines and proinflammatory cytokines. To test this hypothesis, RT-PCR was performed on TLRs, interleukin (IL)-8 and tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha. Stimulation of HeLa cells by T. vaginalis was observed to up-regulate TLR2, 4 and 9 mRNA expression as well as that of IL-8 and TNF-alpha. To further clarify the molecular mechanism of barrier devastation triggered by these up-regulatory stimuli, we examined the profiles of extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB activation in HeLa cells using specific inhibitors. Interestingly, pretreatment of HeLa cells with the p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580 demonstrated inhibition of T. vaginalis-induced up-regulation of TLR2, 4, and 9 mRNA expression. By contrast, inhibition of ERK or NF-kappaB activation failed to block T. vaginalis-induced up-regulation of TLR9 mRNA expression or TLR2 and TLR4 mRNA expression, respectively. In addition, pretreatment with SB203580 reduced epithelium-derived IL-8 and TNF-alpha release evoked by T. vaginalis. Our results show that T. vaginalis infection of the mucocutaneous barrier could up-regulate TLR2, 4 and 9 gene expression via the p38 MAPK signalling pathway in epithelial cells; this process then leads to modulation of p38 MAPK-dependent IL-8 and TNF-alpha release from the epithelium.

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