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Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2006 Aug;291(2):C218-30.

Innate immune response in CF airway epithelia: hyperinflammatory?

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Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology, 231 LSA, Univ. of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-3200, USA.


The lack of functional cystic fibrosis (CF) transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) in the apical membranes of CF airway epithelial cells abolishes cAMP-stimulated anion transport, and bacteria, eventually including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bind to and accumulate in the mucus. Flagellin released from P. aeruginosa triggers airway epithelial Toll-like receptor 5 and subsequent NF-kappaB signaling and production and release of proinflammatory cytokines that recruit neutrophils to the infected region. This response has been termed hyperinflammatory because so many neutrophils accumulate; a response that damages CF lung tissue. We first review the contradictory data both for and against the idea that epithelial cells exhibit larger-than-normal proinflammatory signaling in CF compared with non-CF cells and then review proposals that might explain how reduced CFTR function could activate such proinflammatory signaling. It is concluded that apparent exaggerated innate immune response of CF airway epithelial cells may have resulted not from direct effects of CFTR on cellular signaling or inflammatory mediator production but from indirect effects resulting from the absence of CFTRs apical membrane channel function. Thus, loss of Cl-, HCO3-, and glutathione secretion may lead to reduced volume and increased acidification and oxidation of the airway surface liquid. These changes concentrate proinflammatory mediators, reduce mucociliary clearance of bacteria and subsequently activate cellular signaling. Loss of apical CFTR will also hyperpolarize basolateral membrane potentials, potentially leading to increases in cytosolic [Ca2+], intracellular Ca2+, and NF-kappaB signaling. This hyperinflammatory effect of CF on intracellular Ca2+ and NF-kappaB signaling would be most prominently expressed during exposure to both P. aeruginosa and also endocrine, paracrine, or nervous agonists that activate Ca2+ signaling in the airway epithelia.

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