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Am J Pathol. 2011 Aug;179(2):807-18. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.05.001. Epub 2011 May 31.

Prostaglandin E2 produced by Entamoeba histolytica signals via EP4 receptor and alters claudin-4 to increase ion permeability of tight junctions.

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Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Entamoeba histolytica is a protozoan parasite that causes amebic dysentery characterized by severe watery diarrhea. Unfortunately, the parasitic factors involved in the pathogenesis of diarrhea are poorly defined. Prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)) is a host lipid mediator associated with diarrheal diseases. Intriguingly, E. histolytica produces and secretes this inflammatory molecule. We investigated the mechanism whereby ameba-derived PGE(2) induces the onset of diarrhea by altering ion permeability of paracellular tight junctions (TJs) in colonic epithelia. PGE(2) decreased barrier integrity of TJs in a dose- and time-dependent manner, as measured by transepithelial resistance. PGE(2) signals were selectively transduced via the EP4 receptor. Furthermore, PGE(2) signaling decreased TJ integrity, as revealed by EP receptor-specific agonist and antagonist studies. Loss of mucosal barrier integrity corresponded with increased ion permeability across TJs. Subcellular fractionation and confocal microscopy studies highlighted a significant spatial alteration of an important TJ protein, claudin-4, that corresponded with increased sodium ion permeability through TJs toward the lumen. Moreover, PGE(2)-induced luminal chloride secretion was a prerequisite for alterations at TJs. Thus, the gradient of NaCl created across epithelia could serve as a trigger for osmotic water flow that leads to diarrhea. Our results highlight a pathological role for E. histolytica-derived PGE(2) in the onset of diarrhea.

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