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Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2007 Nov-Dec;55(6):353-62. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Regulation of local immunity by airway epithelial cells.

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Department of Hygiene and Medical Microbiology, Hygiene Institute, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, 69120, Heidelberg, Germany.


Epithelial cells are the first line of defense against invading microbial pathogens. They are important contributors to innate mucosal immunity and generate various and sophisticated anti-microbial defense mechanisms, including the formation of a tight barrier and secretion of anti-microbial substances as well as inflammatory mediators. To provide these active defense mechanisms, epithelial cells functionally express various pattern-recognition receptors. Toll-like receptors have been shown to recognize conserved microbial patterns mediating inducible activation of innate immunity. Mucosal surfaces, however, are prone to contact with pathogenic as well as non-pathogenic microbes and, therefore, immune-recognition principles have to be strictly regulated to avoid uncontrolled permanent activation. This review will focus on mechanisms by which epithelial cells regulate mucosal immune responses, thus creating an organ-specific microenvironment. This includes local adaptations in microbial recognition, regulation of local immune homeostasis, and modulation of antigen-presenting cells and adaptive immune responses. These regulatory mechanisms serve the special needs of controlled microbial recognition in mucosal compartments.

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