Expression of the cathelicidin LL-37 is modulated by short chain fatty acids in colonocytes: relevance of signalling pathways

Schauber, J.; Svanholm, C.; Termén, S.; Iffland, K.; Menzel, T.; Scheppach, W.; Melcher, R.; Agerberth, B.; Lührs, H.; Gudmundsson, G.H.
May 2003
Gut;May2003, Vol. 52 Issue 5, p735
Academic Journal
Background and aims: Short chain fatty acids (SCFA) exert profound effects on the colonic mucosa. In particular, SCFA modulate rnucosal immune functions. The antimicrobial cathelicidin LL-37 is expressed by colon epithelial cells. In the present study the effect of SCFA on LL-37 expression was investigated. Methods: LL-37 expression in vivo was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Real time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction was employed to determine LL-37 expression in colonocytes in vitro after treatment with various cytokines, SCFA, or flavone. LL-37 levels were correlated to cell differentiation which was determined by alkaline phosphatase (AP) activity. In addition, intracellular signalling pathways such as MEK-ERK (mitogen/extracellular signal protein kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal regulated protein kinase (ERK)) and p38/mitogen activated protein (MAP) kinase were explored. Results: In vivo, LL-37 expression in healthy mucosa was restricted to differentiated epithelial cells in human colon and ileum. In colonocytes, increased LL-37 expression associated with cell differentiation was detected in vitro following treatment with butyrate, isobutyrate, propionate, and trichostatin A. Flavone induced LL-37 transcription but did not affect AP activity while cytokines had no effect. To dissect pathways mediating differentiation and LL-37 expression, specific inhibitors were applied. Inhibition of the protein kinase MEK enhanced butyrate induced AP activity while LL-37 expression in colon epithelial cells was blocked. In contrast, inhibition of p38/MAP kinase blocked cell differentiation without inhibiting LL-37 expression. Conclusions: Expression of the cathelicidin LL-37 in colonocytes and cellular differentiation are separately modulated by SCFA via distinct signalling pathways. These data may provide a rationale for dietary modulation of mucosal defence mechanisms.


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