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Airway epithelial cells prime plasmacytoid dendritic cells to respond to pathogens via secretion of growth factors.


Plasmacytoid dendritic cells (PDCs) are critical for defense against respiratory viruses because of their propensity to secrete high levels of type I interferons (IFN). The functions of PDCs in the lung can be influenced by airway epithelial cells. We examined the effect of human primary bronchial epithelial cells (PBECs) on PDC functions by performing RNA-sequencing of PDCs after co-culture with air liquid interface differentiated PBECs. Functional analysis revealed that PDCs co-cultured with PBECs displayed upregulation of type I IFN production and response genes. Upregulated transcripts included those encoding cytosolic sensors of DNA, ZBP-1,IRF-3, and NFkB as well as genes involved in amplification of the IFN response, such as IFNAR1, JAK/STAT, ISG15. In keeping with the RNA-seq data, we observe increased secretion of type I IFN and other cytokines in response to influenza in PDCs co-cultured with PBECs. The PDCs also primed Th1 responses in T cells. The enhanced response of PDCs co-cultured with PBECs was due to the action of growth factors, GMCSF, GCSF, and VEGF, which were secreted by PBECs on differentiation. These data highlight possible mechanisms to enhance the production of type-I IFN in the airways, which is critical for host defense against respiratory infections.

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