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PLoS One. 2011 May 9;6(5):e19614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019614.

Induction of TLR-2 and TLR-5 expression by Helicobacter pylori switches cagPAI-dependent signalling leading to the secretion of IL-8 and TNF-α.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, Otto von Guericke University, Magdeburg, Germany.


Helicobacter pylori is the causative agent for developing gastritis, gastric ulcer, and even gastric cancer. Virulent strains carry the cag pathogenicity island (cagPAI) encoding a type-IV secretion system (T4SS) for injecting the CagA protein. However, mechanisms of sensing this pathogen through Toll-like receptors (TLRs) and downstream signalling pathways in the development of different pathologies are widely unclear. Here, we explored the involvement of TLR-2 and TLR-5 in THP-1 cells and HEK293 cell lines (stably transfected with TLR-2 or TLR-5) during infection with wild-type H. pylori and isogenic cagPAI mutants. H. pylori triggered enhanced TLR-2 and TLR-5 expression in THP-1, HEK293-TLR2 and HEK293-TLR5 cells, but not in the HEK293 control. In addition, IL-8 and TNF-α cytokine secretion in THP-1 cells was induced in a cagPAI-dependent manner. Furthermore, we show that HEK293 cells are not competent for the uptake of T4SS-delivered CagA, and are therefore ideally suited for studying TLR signalling in the absence of T4SS functions. HEK293 control cells, which do not induce TLR-2 and TLR-5 expression during infection, only secreted cytokines in small amounts, in agreement with T4SS functions being absent. In contrast, HEK293-TLR2 and HEK293-TLR5 cells were highly competent for inducing the secretion of IL-8 and TNF-α cytokines in a cagPAI-independent manner, suggesting that the expression of TLR-2 or TLR-5 has profoundly changed the capability to trigger pro-inflammatory signalling upon infection. Using phospho-specific antibodies and luciferase reporter assays, we further demonstrate that H. pylori induces IRAK-1 and IκB phosphorylation in a TLR-dependent manner, and this was required for activation of transcription factor NF-κB. Finally, NF-κB activation in HEK293-TLR2 and HEK293-TLR5 cells was confirmed by expressing p65-GFP which was translocated from the cytoplasm into the nucleus. These data indicate that H. pylori-induced expression of TLR-2 and TLR-5 can qualitatively shift cagPAI-dependent to cagPAI-independent pro-inflammatory signalling pathways with possible impact on the outcome of H. pylori-associated diseases.

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