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Induction of beta defensin 2 by NTHi requires TLR2 mediated MyD88 and IRAK-TRAF6-p38MAPK signaling pathway in human middle ear epithelial cells.

  • Author(s): Lee, Haa-Yung
  • Takeshita, Tamotsu
  • Shimada, Jun
  • Akopyan, Arsen
  • Woo, Jeong-Im
  • Pan, Huiqi
  • Moon, Sung K
  • Andalibi, Ali
  • Park, Rae-Kil
  • Kang, Sung-Ho
  • Kang, Shin-Seok
  • Gellibolian, Robert
  • Lim, David J
  • et al.


All mucosal epithelia, including those of the tubotympanium, are secreting a variety of antimicrobial innate immune molecules (AIIMs). In our previous study, we showed the bactericidal/bacteriostatic functions of AIIMs against various otitis media pathogens. Among the AIIMs, human beta-defensin 2 is the most potent molecule and is inducible by exposure to inflammatory stimuli such as bacterial components or proinflammatory cytokines. Even though the beta-defensin 2 is an important AIIM, the induction mechanism of this molecule has not been clearly established. We believe that this report is the first attempt to elucidate NTHi induced beta-defensin expression in airway mucosa, which includes the middle ear.


Monoclonal antibody blocking method was employed in monitoring the TLR-dependent NTHi response. Two gene knock down methods - dominant negative (DN) plasmid and small interfering RNA (siRNA) - were employed to detect and confirm the involvement of several key genes in the signaling cascade resulting from the NTHi stimulated beta-defensin 2 expression in human middle ear epithelial cell (HMEEC-1). The student's t-test was used for the statistical analysis of the data.


The experimental results showed that the major NTHi-specific receptor in HMEEC-1 is the Toll-like receptor 2 (TLR2). Furthermore, recognition of NTHi component(s)/ligand(s) by TLR2, activated the Toll/IL-1 receptor (TIR)-MyD88-IRAK1-TRAF6-MKK3/6-p38 MAPK signal transduction pathway, ultimately leading to the induction of beta-defensin 2.


This study found that the induction of beta-defensin 2 is highest in whole cell lysate (WCL) preparations of NTHi, suggesting that the ligand(s) responsible for this up-regulation may be soluble macromolecule(s). We also found that this induction takes place through the TLR2 dependent MyD88-IRAK1-TRAF6-p38 MAPK pathway, with the primary response occurring within the first hour of stimulation. In combination with our previous studies showing that IL-1alpha-induced beta-defensin 2 expression takes place through a MyD88-independent Raf-MEK1/2-ERK MAPK pathway, we found that both signaling cascades act synergistically to up-regulate beta-defensin 2 levels. We propose that this confers an essential evolutionary advantage to the cells in coping with infections and may serve to amplify the innate immune response through paracrine signaling.

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