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Respir Res. 2008 Jan 31;9:16. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-9-16.

Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae induces COX-2 and PGE2 expression in lung epithelial cells via activation of p38 MAPK and NF-kappa B.

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Department of Respiratory Medicine, Second Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, Hangzhou, Zhejiang 310009, China.



Nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is an important respiratory pathogen implicated as an infectious trigger in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but its molecular interaction with human lung epithelial cells remains unclear. Herein, we tested that the hypothesis that NTHi induces the expression of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) via activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and nuclear factor (NF)-kappa B in pulmonary alveolar epithelial cells.


Human alveolar epithelial A549 cells were infected with different concentrations of NTHi. The phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was detected by Western blot analysis, the DNA binding activity of NF-kappa B was assessed by electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA), and the expressions of COX-1 and 2 mRNA and PGE2 protein were measured by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), respectively. The roles of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2 and TLR4, well known NTHi recognizing receptor in lung epithelial cell and gram-negative bacteria receptor, respectively, on the NTHi-induced COX-2 expression were investigated in the HEK293 cells overexpressing TLR2 and TLR4 in vitro and in the mouse model of NTHi-induced pneumonia by using TLR2 and TLR4 knock-out mice in vivo. In addition, the role of p38 MAPK and NF-kappa B on the NTHi-induced COX-2 and PGE2 expression was investigated by using their specific chemical inhibitors.


NTHi induced COX-2 mRNA expression in a dose-dependent manner, but not COX-1 mRNA expression in A549 cells. The enhanced expression of PGE2 by NTHi infection was significantly decreased by pre-treatment of COX-2 specific inhibitor, but not by COX-1 inhibitor. NTHi induced COX-2 expression was mediated by TLR2 in the epithelial cell in vitro and in the lungs of mice in vivo. NTHi induced phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and up-regulated DNA binding activity of NF-kappa B. Moreover, the expressions of COX-2 and PGE2 were significantly inhibited by specific inhibitors of p38 MAPK and NF-kappa B. However, NTHi-induced DNA binding activity of NF-kappa B was not affected by the inhibition of p38 MAPK.


NTHi induces COX-2 and PGE2 expression in a p38 MAPK and NF-kappa B-dependent manner through TLR2 in lung epithelial cells in vitro and lung tissues in vivo. The full understanding of the role of endogenous anti-inflammatory PGE2 and its regulation will bring new insight to the resolution of inflammation in pulmonary bacterial infections.

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