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Enteric glia protect against Shigella flexneri invasion in intestinal epithelial cells: a role for S-nitrosoglutathione


Background Enteric glial cells (EGCs) are important regulators of intestinal epithelial barrier (IEB) functions. EGC-derived S-nitrosoglutathione (GSNO) has been shown to regulate IEB permeability. Whether EGCs and GSNO protect the IEB during infectious insult by pathogens such as Shigella flexneri is not known.

Methods S flexneri effects were characterised using in vitro coculture models of Caco-2 cells and EGCs (or GSNO), ex vivo human colonic mucosa, and in vivo ligated rabbit intestinal loops. The effect of EGCs on S flexneri-induced changes in the invasion area and the inflammatory response were analysed by combining immunohistochemical, ELISA and PCR methods. Expression of small G-proteins was analysed by western blot. Expression of ZO-1 and localisation of bacteria were analysed by fluorescence microscopy.

Results EGCs significantly reduced barrier lesions and inflammatory response induced by S flexneri in Caco-2 monolayers. The EGC-mediated effects were reproduced by GSNO, but not by reduced glutathione, and pharmacological inhibition of pathways involved in GSNO synthesis reduced EGC protecting effects. Furthermore, expression of Cdc42 and phospho-PAK in Caco-2 monolayers was significantly reduced in the presence of EGCs or GSNO. In addition, changes in ZO-1 expression and distribution induced by S flexneri were prevented by EGCs and GSNO. Finally, GSNO reduced S flexneri-induced lesions of the IEB in human mucosal colonic explants and in a rabbit model of shigellosis.

Conclusion These results highlight a major protective function of EGCs and GSNO in the IEB against S flexneri attack. Consequently, this study lays the scientific basis for using GSNO to reduce barrier susceptibility to infectious or inflammatory challenge.

  • Enteric nervous system
  • enteric glial cells
  • intestinal infection
  • Shigella flexneri
  • infectious disease
  • nerve - gut interactions

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