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Non-pathogenic bacteria elicit a differential cytokine response by intestinal epithelial cell/leucocyte co-cultures
  1. D Hallera,b,
  2. C Bodea,
  3. W P Hammesb,
  4. A M A Pfeiferc,
  5. E J Schiffrinc,
  6. S Blumc
  1. aInstitute of Biological Chemistry and Nutrition Science, University Hohenheim, Germany, bInstitute of Food Technology, University Hohenheim, Germany, cImmunology, Nestlé Research Centre, Lausanne, Switzerland
  1. Dr S Blum, Department of Immunology, Nestlé Research Centre, Vers-Chez-les-Blanc, Ch-1000 Lausanne 26, Switzerland. Email: stephanie.blum-sperisen{at}


BACKGROUND AND AIM Intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) are thought to participate in the mucosal defence against bacteria and in the regulation of mucosal tissue homeostasis. Reactivity of IEC to bacterial signals may depend on interactions with immunocompetent cells. To address the question of whether non-pathogenic bacteria modify the immune response of the intestinal epithelium, we co-cultivated enterocyte-like CaCO-2 cells with human blood leucocytes in separate compartments of transwell cultures.

METHODS CaCO-2/PBMC co-cultures were stimulated with non-pathogenic bacteria and enteropathogenic Escherichia coli. Expression of tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-8, monocyte chemoattracting protein 1 (MCP-1), and IL-10 was studied by enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (cytokine secretion) and by semiquantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

RESULTS Challenge of CaCO-2 cells with non-pathogenic E coli andLactobacillus sakei induced expression of IL-8, MCP-1, IL-1β, and TNF-α mRNA in the presence of underlying leucocytes. Leucocyte sensitised CaCO-2 cells produced TNF-α and IL-1β whereas IL-10 was exclusively secreted by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. CaCO-2 cells alone remained hyporesponsive to the bacterial challenge. Lactobacillus johnsonii, an intestinal isolate, showed reduced potential to induce proinflammatory cytokines but increased transforming growth factor beta mRΝA in leucocyte sensitised CaCO-2 cells. TNF-α was identified as one of the early mediators involved in cellular cross talk. In the presence of leucocytes, discriminative activation of CaCO-2 cells was observed between enteropathogenicE coli and non-pathogenic bacteria.

CONCLUSION The differential recognition of non-pathogenic bacteria by CaCO-2 cells required the presence of underlying leucocytes. These results strengthen the hypothesis that bacterial signalling at the mucosal surface is dependent on a network of cellular interactions.

  • CaCO-2 cells
  • leucocytes
  • enteropathogenicE coli
  • Lactobacilli
  • tumour necrosis factor
  • interleukin 1β
  • interleukin 10
  • chemokines
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  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    intestinal epithelial cells
    peripheral blood mononuclear cells
    tumour necrosis factor alpha
    interleukin 1 beta
    intraepithelial lymphocytes
    peripheral blood lymphocytes
    lamina propria lymphocytes
    reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction
    transforming growth factor beta
    phosphate buffered saline
    transepithelial electrical resistance
    base pair
    colony forming units
    monocyte chemoattracting protein 1
    monoclonal antibody
    inflammatory bowel disease

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