To determine the transcription pattern of Nod-like receptors (NLRs) and inflammasome components (apoptosis-associated speck-like protein containing a CARD [ASC], CARD inhibitor of NFkB-activating ligands [Cardinal], and caspase-1) in human corneal epithelial cells obtained from healthy individuals undergoing photorefractive keratectomy and in immortalized human corneal epithelial cells (HCE-T).
Human corneal epithelial cells were taken from the eyes of healthy individuals by epithelial ablation for photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). The SV-40 immortalized human corneal epithelial cell line (HCE-T) was cultured. mRNA obtained from the cells was reverse transcribed and subjected to quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) measurements. Protein obtained from HCE-T cells was studied using the western blot technique. HCE-T cells were irradiated by UV-B light or treated with ultrapure peptidoglycan, and the effects were studied at the mRNA and protein level while the supernatant of the cells was tested for the presence of various cytokines by using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) methods.
mRNA levels of the studied proteins in the primary cells of the donors were similar in most cases. The transcription of Nod1, Nod2, NLRX1, Nalp1, and Cardinal was similar in the two cell types. While the expression of Nalp3 and Nalp10 was higher in HCE-T cells, ASC and caspase-1 showed higher transcription levels in the primary cells. NLRC5 and Nalp7 were hardly detectable in the studied cells. Functionality of the Nod1/Nod2 system was demonstrated by increased phosphorylation of IkB upon Nod1/Nod2 agonist ultrapure peptidoglycan treatment in HCE-T cells. While UV-B irradiation exerted a downregulation of both Nalp and Nod mRNAs as well as those of inflammasome components in HCE-T cells, longer incubation of the cells after exposure resulted in recovery or upregulation only of the Nalp sensors. At the protein level, we detected a short isoform of Nalp1 and its expression changed in a similar way as its RNA expression, but we could not detect Nalp3 protein. Among the studied cytokines, only IL-6 was detected in the supernatant of HCE-T cells. Its constitutively secreted level increased by only twofold after 24 h of UV-B irradiation.
Based on our experiments, UV-B irradiation appears to exert an immunosilencing effect on the HCE-T cells by downregulating most of the sensor molecules as well as the components of the inflammasomes. Expression profiling of corneal epithelial cells suggested that the HCE-T cells may not serve as a good model for Nalp3 or Nalp1 inflammasome studies but it may be better suited for studies on the Nod1/Nod2 systems.