Hepcidin is a regulatory hormone that plays a major role in controlling body iron homeostasis. Circulating factors (holotransferrin, cytokines, erythroid regulators) might variably contribute to hepcidin modulation in different pathological conditions. There are few studies analysing the relationship between hepcidin transcript and related protein expression profiles in humans. Our aims were: a. to measure hepcidin expression at either hepatic, serum and urinary level in three paradigmatic iron overload conditions (hemochromatosis, thalassemia and dysmetabolic iron overload syndrome) and in controls; b. to measure mRNA hepcidin expression in two different hepatic cell lines (HepG2 and Huh-7) exposed to patients and controls sera to assess whether circulating factors could influence hepcidin transcription in different pathological conditions. Our findings suggest that hepcidin assays reflect hepatic hepcidin production, but also indicate that correlation is not ideal, likely due to methodological limits and to several post-trascriptional events. In vitro study showed that THAL sera down-regulated, HFE-HH and C-NAFLD sera up-regulated hepcidin synthesis. HAMP mRNA expression in Huh-7 cells exposed to sera form C-Donors, HFE-HH and THAL reproduced, at lower level, the results observed in HepG2, suggesting the important but not critical role of HFE in hepcidin regulation.
Hemoglobinopathies and other disorders of erythroid cells are often associated with abnormal iron homeostasis. We review the molecular physiology of intracellular and systemic iron regulation, and the interactions between erythropoiesis and iron homeostasis. Finally, we discuss iron disorders that affect erythropoiesis as well as erythroid disorders that cause iron dysregulation.
Homeostatic mechanisms maintain plasma iron concentrations at 10–30 μm. Chronically low or high concentrations lead to ineffective erythropoiesis, anemia, generation of nontransferrin-bound iron, and tissue damage.
In response to iron loading, hepcidin synthesis is homeostatically increased to limit further absorption of dietary iron and its release from stores. Mutations in HFE, transferrin receptor 2 (Tfr2), hemojuvelin (HJV) or bone morphogenetic protein 6 (BMP6) prevent appropriate hepcidin response to iron, allowing increased absorption of dietary iron, and eventually iron overload. To understand the role each of these proteins plays in hepcidin regulation by iron, we analyzed hepcidin mRNA responsiveness to short and long-term iron challenge in iron-depleted Hfe, Tfr2, Hjv and Bmp6 mutant mice. After 1-day (acute) iron challenge, Hfe−/− showed a smaller hepcidin increase than their wild-type strain-matched controls, Bmp6−/− nearly no increase, and Tfr2 and Hjv mutants no increase in hepcidin expression, indicating that all four proteins participate in hepcidin regulation by acute iron changes. After a 21-day (chronic) iron challenge, Hfe and Tfr2 mutants increased hepcidin expression to nearly wild-type levels but a blunted increase of hepcidin was seen in Bmp6−/− and Hjv−/− mice. BMP6, whose expression is also regulated by iron, may mediate hepcidin regulation by iron stores. None of the mutant strains (excepting Bmp6−/− mice) had impaired BMP6 mRNA response to chronic iron loading. Conclusion: TfR2, HJV and BMP6 and, to a lesser extent, HFE, are required for the hepcidin response to acute iron loading, but are partially redundant for hepcidin regulation during chronic iron loading, and are not involved in the regulation of BMP6 expression. Our findings support a model in which acute increases in holotransferrin concentrations transmitted through HFE, TfR2 and HJV augment BMP receptor sensitivity to BMPs. A distinct regulatory mechanism that senses hepatic iron may modulate hepcidin response to chronic iron loading.
Hereditary hemochromatosis; bone morphogenetic protein 6; hemojuvelin; HFE; transferrin receptor 2
The peptide hormone hepcidin is a key homeostatic regulator of iron metabolism and involved in pathological regulation of iron in response to infection, inflammation, hypoxia and anaemia. It acts by binding to the iron exporter ferroportin, causing it to be internalised and degraded; however, little is known about the structure/activity relationships of the interaction of hepcidin with ferroportin. Here we show that there are key residues within the N-terminal region of hepcidin that influence its interaction with ferroportin, and we explore the structure/function relationships at these positions. We found that the interaction is primarily hydrophobic with critical stereochemical requirements at positions 4 and 6. In addition, a series of hepcidin mutants in which disulfide bonds had been replaced with diselenide bonds showed no change in biological activity compared to native hepcidin. The results provide mechanistic insight into the interaction between hepcidin and ferroportin and identify important constraints for the development of hepcidin congeners for the treatment of hereditary iron overload.
Iron overload is the hallmark of hereditary hemochromatosis and a complication of iron-loading anemias such as β-thalassemia. Treatment can be burdensome and have significant side effects, and new therapeutic options are needed. Iron overload in hereditary hemochromatosis and β-thalassemia intermedia is caused by hepcidin deficiency. Although transgenic hepcidin replacement in mouse models of these diseases prevents iron overload or decreases its potential toxicity, natural hepcidin is prohibitively expensive for human application and has unfavorable pharmacologic properties. Here, we report the rational design of hepcidin agonists based on the mutagenesis of hepcidin and the hepcidin-binding region of ferroportin and computer modeling of their docking. We identified specific hydrophobic/aromatic residues required for hepcidin-ferroportin binding and obtained evidence in vitro that a thiol-disulfide interaction between ferroportin C326 and the hepcidin disulfide cage may stabilize binding. Guided by this model, we showed that 7–9 N-terminal amino acids of hepcidin, including a single thiol cysteine, comprised the minimal structure that retained hepcidin activity, as shown by the induction of ferroportin degradation in reporter cells. Further modifications to increase resistance to proteolysis and oral bioavailability yielded minihepcidins that, after parenteral or oral administration to mice, lowered serum iron levels comparably to those after parenteral native hepcidin. Moreover, liver iron concentrations were lower in mice chronically treated with minihepcidins than those in mice treated with solvent alone. Minihepcidins may be useful for the treatment of iron overload disorders.
Rationale: The involvement of neutrophil activation in the sentinel, potentially reversible, events in the pathogenesis of acute lung injury (ALI) is only partially understood. α-Defensins are the most abundant proteins secreted by activated human neutrophils, but their contribution to ALI in mouse models is hindered by their absence from murine neutrophils and the inability to study their effects in isolation in other species.
Objectives: To study the role of α-defensins in the pathogenesis of ALI in a clinically relevant setting using mice transgenic for polymorphonuclear leukocyte expression of α-defensins.
Methods: Transgenic mice expressing polymorphonuclear leukocyte α-defensins were generated. ALI was induced by acid aspiration. Pulmonary vascular permeability was studied in vivo using labeled dextran and fibrin deposition. The role of the low-density lipoprotein–related receptor (LRP) in permeability was examined.
Measurements and Main Results: Acid aspiration induced neutrophil migration and release of α-defensins into lung parenchyma and airways. ALI was more severe in α-defensin–expressing mice than in wild-type mice, as determined by inspection, influx of neutrophils into the interstitial space and airways, histological evidence of epithelial injury, interstitial edema, extravascular fibrin deposition, impaired oxygenation, and reduced survival. Within 4 hours of insult, α-defensin–expressing mice showed greater disruption of capillary–epithelial barrier function and ALI that was attenuated by systemic or intratracheal administration of specific inhibitors of the LRP.
Conclusions: α-Defensins mediate ALI through LRP-mediated loss of capillary–epithelial barrier function, suggesting a potential new approach to intervention.
acute lung injury; capillary–epithelial barrier; α-defensins; low-density lipoprotein–related receptor; receptor-associated protein
Patients with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) often have increased liver iron, a condition associated with reduced sustained response to antiviral therapy, more rapid progression to cirrhosis, and development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The hepatic hormone hepcidin is the major regulator of iron metabolism and inhibits iron absorption and recycling from erythrophagocytosis. Hepcidin decrease is a possible pathophysiological mechanism of iron overload in CHC, but studies in humans have been hampered so far by the lack of reliable quantitative assays for the 25-amino acid bioactive peptide in serum (s-hepcidin).
Using a recently validated immunoassay, we measured s-hepcidin levels in 81 untreated CHC patients and 57 controls with rigorous definition of normal iron status. All CHC patients underwent liver biopsy with histological iron score.
S-hepcidin was significantly lower in CHC patients than in controls (geometric means with 95% confidence intervals: 33.7, 21.5–52.9 vs. 90.9, 76.1–108.4 ng/mL, respectively; p < 0.001). In CHC patients, s-hepcidin significantly correlated with serum ferritin and histological total iron score, but not with s-interleukin-6. After stratification for ferritin quartiles, s-hepcidin increased significantly across quartiles in both controls and CHC patients (chi for trend, p < 0.001). However, in CHC patients, s-hepcidin was significantly lower than in controls for each corresponding quartile (analysis of variance, p < 0.001).
These results, together with very recent studies in animal and cellular models, indicate that although hepcidin regulation by iron stores is maintained in CHC, the suppression of this hormone by hepatitis C virus is likely an important factor in liver iron accumulation in this condition.
Chronic hepatitis C; Hemochromatosis; Hepcidin; Iron overload; Ferritin
Hepcidin is the central regulator of systemic iron homeostasis. Dysregulation of hepcidin production results in a variety of iron disorders. Hepcidin deficiency is the cause of iron overload in hereditary hemochromatosis, iron-loading anemias, and hepatitis C. Hepcidin excess is associated with anemia of inflammation, chronic kidney disease and iron-refractory iron deficiency anemia. Diagnostic and therapeutic applications of this new knowledge are beginning to emerge. Dr. Ernest Beutler played a significant role in advancing our understanding of the function of hepcidin. This review is dedicated to his memory.
Anemia of inflammation; Bone morphogenetic protein; Hemochromatosis; Hepcidin; Iron-loading anemia
Anemia of chronic disease, also called anemia of inflammation, is characterized by hypoferremia due to iron sequestration that eventually results in iron-restricted erythropoiesis. During the last decade, the molecular mechanisms of iron sequestration have been found to center on cytokine-stimulated overproduction of the iron-regulatory hormone hepcidin. The inflammatory cytokine IL-6 is a particularly prominent inducer of hepcidin but other cytokines are likely to contribute as well. Hepcidin excess causes the endocytosis and proteolysis of the sole known cellular iron exporter, ferroportin, trapping iron in macrophages and iron-absorbing enterocytes. The supply of iron to hemoglobin synthesis becomes limiting, eventually resulting in anemia. Depending on the details of the underlying disease, other inflammation-related mechanisms may also contribute to anemia.
Anemia of inflammation (AI) is a complex multi-organ response to inflammatory disorders. Because AI can result from many infectious and non-infectious inflammatory diseases, multiple mechanisms may contribute to its pathogenesis including iron restriction, direct erythropoietic suppression, shortened red cell survival or frank hemolysis. Animal models have been helpful in the study of the mechanisms of AI and its potential treatments but each model reflects distinct aspects of this heterogeneous syndrome. It is therefore important to study a variety of models of AI. This review focuses on the use of infectious and noninfectious mouse models of inflammation that have been shown to manifest anemia. We review many of the models reported in the literature or developed in our laboratory, and discuss their respective merits and drawbacks.
Iron is essential for nearly all living organisms. Innate immunity effectively restricts iron availability to microbial invaders. Some microbes have evolved effective countermeasures that blunt the effect of iron restriction. Recent epidemiologic studies have highlighted the potentiating effect of iron on microbial infections. Laboratory studies have focused on specific immune mechanisms that mediate iron withholding from microbes constitutively and in response to infections. Specialized inflammation-regulated proteins chelate iron, trap siderophores, and transport iron or modulate its transport to alter its tissue distribution during infections.
Mammalian iron homeostasis is regulated by the interaction of the liver-produced peptide hepcidin and its receptor, the iron transporter ferroportin. Hepcidin binds to ferroportin resulting in degradation of ferroportin and decreased cellular iron export. We identify the hepcidin-binding domain (HBD) on ferroportin and show that a synthetic 19 amino acid peptide corresponding to the HBD recapitulates the characteristics and specificity of hepcidin binding to cell surface ferroportin. The binding of mammalian hepcidin to ferroportin or the HBD shows an unusual temperature dependency with an increased rate of dissociation at temperatures below 15°C. The increased rate of dissociation is due to temperature dependent changes in hepcidin structure. In contrast, hepcidin from poikilothermic vertebrates, such as fish or frogs, binds the HBD in a temperature independent fashion. The affinity of hepcidin for the HBD permits a rapid, sensitive assay of hepcidin from all species and yields insights into the evolution of hepcidin.
Human epidermis elaborates two small cationic, highly hydrophobic antimicrobial peptides (AMP), β-defensin 2 (hBD2), and the carboxypeptide cleavage product of human cathelicidin (hCAP18), LL-37, which are co-packaged along with lipids within epidermal lamellar bodies (LBs) before their secretion. Because of their colocalization, we hypothesized that AMP and barrier lipid production could be coregulated by altered permeability barrier requirements. mRNA and immunostainable protein levels for mBD3 and cathelin-related antimicrobial peptide (CRAMP) (murine homologues of hBD2 and LL-37, respectively) increase 1–8 hours after acute permeability barrier disruption and normalize by 24 hours, kinetics that mirror the lipid metabolic response to permeability barrier disruption. Artificial permeability barrier restoration, which inhibits the lipid-synthetic response leading to barrier recovery, blocks the increase in AMP mRNA/protein expression, further evidence that AMP expression is linked to permeability barrier function. Conversely, LB-derived AMPs are also important for permeability barrier homeostasis. Despite an apparent increase in mBD3 protein, CRAMP−/− mice delayed permeability barrier recovery, attributable to defective LB contents and abnormalities in the structure of the lamellar membranes that regulate permeability barrier function. These studies demonstrate that (1) the permeability and antimicrobial barriers are coordinately regulated by permeability barrier requirements and (2) CRAMP is required for permeability barrier homeostasis.
Although it is known that innate immunity is key for protecting the body against foreign agents such as bacteria, little is known about elements of the innate immune system that have anti-tumor activity. Human Beta Defensin-1 (hBD-1), an important component of the innate immune response, is lost at high frequencies in malignant prostatic tissue, while high levels of expression are maintained in adjacent benign regions. In prostate carcinoma, frequent genetic alterations occur in the 8p22-23 region and several studies indicate there may be multiple tumor suppressor genes present within this region. The high incidence of loss of hBD-1 expression in prostate cancer, along with its chromosomal location of 8p23.2, raised the possibility that it may play a role in tumor suppression. To gain insight as to its function in prostate cancer, hBD-1 was cloned and ectopically expressed in four prostate cancer cell lines. Induction of hBD-1 expression resulted in a decrease in cellular growth in DU145 and PC3 cells. However, hBD-1 has no effect on the growth of androgen receptor (AR) positive LNCaP prostate cancer cells, but was again growth suppressive to PC3 cells with ectopic AR expression (PC3/AR+). hBD-1 also caused rapid induction of cytolysis and caspase-mediated apoptosis in DU145 and PC3 prostate cancer cells. Although the regulation of hBD-1 was not addressed in this study, our preliminary data demonstrated that the pathways involoved may include cMYC and/or PAX2. Data presented here are the first to provide evidence of its potential role in prostate cancer cell death.
Apoptosis; Defensin; Function; hBD-1; prostate cancer; tumor immunity
Hepcidin is encoded as an 84 amino acid prepropeptide containing a typical N-terminal 24 amino acid endoplasmic reticulum targeting signal sequence, and a 35 amino acid proregion (pro) with a consensus furin cleavage site immediately followed by the C-terminal 25 amino acid bioactive iron-regulatory hormone (mature peptide). We performed pulse-chase studies of posttranslational processing of hepcidin in human hepatoma HepG2 cells and in primary human hepatocytes induced with bone morphogenic protein (BMP-9). In some experiments, the cells were treated with the furin protease inhibitor decanoyl-Arg-Val-Lys-Arg-chloromethylketone (CMK) or furin siRNA. In the absence of furin inhibitor, hepcidin was found to be processed in less than 1 hour and secreted as a 3 kD form reactive with anti-mature but not anti-pro antibody. In the presence of furin inhibitors or furin siRNA, a 6 kD form reactive with both anti-pro and anti-mature antibody was rapidly secreted into the medium. Processing was not affected by inhibitors of the hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) pathway, or by treatment with 30 μM holo- or apo-transferrin.
The hepatic prohormone convertase furin mediates the posttranslational processing of hepcidin. The proteolytic cleavage of prohepcidin to hepcidin is not regulated by iron-transferrin or the HIF pathway.
Liver; iron regulation; pro; hepcidin; pulse; chase study; metabolic protein labeling
As the principal iron-regulatory hormone, hepcidin plays an important role in systemic iron homeostasis. The regulation of hepcidin expression by iron loading appears to be unexpectedly complex and has attracted much interest. The GPI-linked membrane protein hemojuvelin (GPI-hemojuvelin) is an essential upstream regulator of hepcidin expression. A soluble form of hemojuvelin (s-hemojuvelin) exists in blood and acts as antagonist of GPI-hemojuvelin to downregulate hepcidin expression. The release of s-hemojuvelin is negatively regulated by both transferrin-bound iron (holo-Tf) and non-transferrin bound iron (FAC), indicating s-hemojuvelin could be one of the mediators of hepcidin regulation by iron. In this report, we investigate the proteinase involved in the release of s-hemojuvelin and show that s-hemojuvelin is released by a proprotein convertase through the cleavage at a conserved polybasic RNRR site.
hepcidin; iron; furin convertase inhibitor; GPI anchor; repulsive guidance molecule C
We transfected host cells with an antimicrobial peptide/protein-encoding gene as a way to enhance host defense mechanisms against infection. The human b-defensin 2 (HBD-2) gene was chosen as a model because its protein does not require cell type-specific processing. Using a retroviral vector carrying HBD-2 cDNA, we treated several mouse or human cell lines and primary cell cultures including fibroblasts, salivary gland cells, endothelial cells, and T cells. All transduced cells produced detectable HBD-2. In Escherichia coli gel overlay experiments, secreted HBD-2 from selected cell lines showed potent antimicrobial activity electrophoretically identical to that of purified HBD-2. We then used a mouse model (nonobese diabetic/severely compromised immunodeficient [NOD/SCID]) to test HBD-2 antimicrobial activities in vivo. HT-1080 cells carrying HBD-2 or control vector were implanted subcutaneously into NOD/SCID mice to allow tumor formation. Escherichia coli was then injected into each tumor mass. Tumors were resected after 16 hr and homogenized for bacterial colony-forming unit analysis. Compared with control tumors, HBD-2-bearing tumors contained only 7.8 6 3.3% viable bacteria. On the basis of this demonstration of HBD-2 in vivo antimicrobial activity, enhancement of antibacterial host defense by HBD-2 gene therapy may be feasible.
The skin is the first line of defense against microbial infection, and psychological stress (PS) has been shown to have adverse effects on cutaneous barrier function. Here we show that PS increased the severity of group A Streptococcus pyogenes (GAS) cutaneous skin infection in mice; this was accompanied by increased production of endogenous glucocorticoids (GCs), which inhibited epidermal lipid synthesis and decreased lamellar body (LB) secretion. LBs encapsulate antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), and PS or systemic or topical GC administration downregulated epidermal expression of murine AMPs cathelin-related AMP and β-defensin 3. Pharmacological blockade of the stress hormone corticotrophin-releasing factor or of peripheral GC action, as well as topical administration of physiologic lipids, normalized epidermal AMP levels and delivery to LBs and decreased the severity of GAS infection during PS. Our results show that PS decreases the levels of 2 key AMPs in the epidermis and their delivery into LBs and that this is attributable to increased endogenous GC production. These data suggest that GC blockade and/or topical lipid administration could normalize cutaneous antimicrobial defense during PS or GC increase. We believe this to be the first mechanistic link between PS and increased susceptibility to infection by microbial pathogens.
Ferroportin (Fpn) is the only known iron exporter in vertebrates. Hepcidin, a peptide secreted by the liver in response to iron or inflammation, binds to Fpn, inducing its internalization and degradation. We show that after binding of hepcidin, Fpn is tyrosine phosphorylated at the plasma membrane. Mutants of human Fpn that do not get internalized or that are internalized slowly show either absent or impaired phosphorylation. We identify adjacent tyrosines as the phosphorylation sites and show that mutation of both tyrosines prevents hepcidin-mediated Fpn internalization. Once internalized, Fpn is dephosphorylated and subsequently ubiquitinated. An inability to ubiquitinate Fpn does not prevent hepcidin-induced internalization, but it inhibits the degradation of Fpn. Ubiquitinated Fpn is trafficked through the multivesicular body pathway en route to degradation in the late endosome/lysosome. Depletion of proteins involved in multivesicular body trafficking (Endosome Sorting Complex Required for Transport proteins), by small-interfering RNA, reduces the trafficking of Fpn-green fluorescent to the lysosome.
Bacterial vaginosis is a common condition associated with increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus infections. In contrast, vulvovaginal candidiasis has a much weaker association with sexually transmitted diseases. We found that vaginal lavage fluid from women with bacterial vaginosis is deficient in antimicrobial polypeptides and antimicrobial activity compared to fluid from healthy women or women with vulvovaginal candidiasis. Effective treatment normalized the concentrations of antimicrobial polypeptides in both bacterial vaginosis and in vulvovaginal candidiasis, suggesting that the abnormalities were a result of the diseases. Unlike in vulvovaginal candidiasis, the neutrophil attractant chemokine interleukin-8 (IL-8) was not increased in bacterial vaginosis, accounting for low concentrations of neutrophil-derived defensins in vaginal fluid. In organotypic cultures of human vaginal epithelium containing dendritic cells, treatment with Lactobacillus jensenii, a typical vaginal resident, induced the synthesis of IL-8 mRNA and the epithelial human β-defensin-2 mRNA, but a typical bacterial vaginosis pathogen, Gardnerella vaginalis, had no effect. When the two bacteria were combined, Gardnerella vaginalis did not interfere with the immunostimulatory effect of Lactobacillus jensenii. The loss of normal immunostimulatory flora in bacterial vaginosis is thus associated with a local deficiency of multiple innate immune factors, and this deficiency could predispose individuals to sexually transmitted diseases.
We found that sterile wounding of human skin induced epidermal expression of the antimicrobial (poly)peptides human β-defensin–3, neutrophil gelatinase–associated lipocalin, and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor through activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor. After skin wounding, the receptor was activated by heparin-binding epidermal growth factor that was released by a metalloprotease-dependent mechanism. Activation of the epidermal growth factor receptor generated antimicrobial concentrations of human β-defensin–3 and increased the activity of organotypic epidermal cultures against Staphylococcus aureus. These data demonstrate that sterile wounding initiates an innate immune response that increases resistance to overt infection and microbial colonization.
Defensins are key participants in mucosal innate defense. The varied antimicrobial activity and differential distribution of defensins at mucosal sites indicate that peptide repertoires are tailored to site-specific innate defense requirements. Nonetheless, few studies have investigated changes in peptide profiles and function after in vivo pathogen challenge. Here, we determined defensin profiles in urethral secretions of healthy men and men with Chlamydia trachomatis- and Neisseria gonorrhoeae-mediated urethritis by immunoblotting for the epithelial defensins HBD1, HBD2, and HD5 and the neutrophil defensins HNP1 to -3 (HNP1-3). HBD1 was not detectable in secretions, and HBD2 was only induced in a small proportion of the urethritis patients; however, HD5 and HNP1-3 were increased in C. trachomatis infection and significantly elevated in N. gonorrhoeae infection. When HNP1-3 levels were low, HD5 appeared mostly as the propeptide; however, when HNP1-3 levels were >10 μg/ml, HD5 was proteolytically processed, suggesting neutrophil proteases might contribute to HD5 processing. HD5 and HNP1-3 were bactericidal against C. trachomatis and N. gonorrhoeae, but HD5 activity was dependent upon N-terminal processing of the peptide. In vitro proteolysis of proHD5 by neutrophil proteases and analysis of urethral secretions by surface-enhanced laser desorption ionization substantiated that neutrophils contribute the key convertases for proHD5 in the urethra during these infections. This contrasts with the small intestine, where Paneth cells secrete both proHD5 and its processing enzyme, trypsin. In conclusion, we describe a unique defensin expression repertoire in response to inflammatory sexually transmitted infections and a novel host defense mechanism wherein epithelial cells collaborate with neutrophils to establish an antimicrobial barrier during infection.
Despite its direct connection to the nasopharynx which harbors otitis media pathogens as part of its normal flora, the middle ear cavity is kept free of these bacteria by as yet unknown mechanisms. Respiratory mucosal epithelia, including those of the middle ear and eustachian tube, secrete antimicrobial effectors including lysozyme, lactoferrin and β defensins-1 and -2. To elucidate the role of these innate immune molecules in the normal defense and maintenance of sterility of respiratory mucosa such as that of the middle ear, we assessed their effect on the respiratory pathogens nontypeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) 12, Moraxella catarrhalis 035E, and Streptococcus pneumoniae 3, and 6B.
Two assay methods, the radial assay and the liquid broth assay, were employed for testing the antimicrobial activity of the molecules. This was done in order to minimize the possibility that the observed effects were artifacts of any single assay system employed. Also, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was employed to evaluate the effect of antimicrobial innate immune molecules on OM pathogens. For the statistical analysis of the data, Student's t-test was performed.
Results of the radial diffusion assay showed that β defensin-2 was active against all four OM pathogens tested, while treatment with β defensin-1 appeared to only affect M. catarrhalis. The radial assay results also showed that lysozyme was quite effective against S. pneumoniae 3 and 6B and was partially bacteriostatic/bactericidal against M. catarrhalis. Lysozyme however, appeared not to affect the growth of NTHi. Thus, lysozyme seems to have a more pronounced impact on the growth of the Gram-positive S. pneumoniae as compared to that of Gram-negative pathogens. Lactoferrin on the other hand, enhanced the growth of the bacteria tested. The results of the radial assays were confirmed using liquid broth assays for antimicrobial activity, and showed that lysozyme and β defensin-2 could act synergistically against S. pneumoniae 6B. Moreover, in the liquid broth assay, β defensin-1 showed a modest inhibitory effect on the growth of S. pneumoniae 6B. As assessed by ultrastructural analysis, lysozyme and β defensin-2, and to a much lesser extent, β defensin-1, appeared to be able to cause damage to the bacterial membranes.
Here we report that lysozyme and the β defensins can inhibit the growth of clinical isolates of otitis media pathogens – namely NTHi strain 12, S. pneumoniae strains 3 and 6B and M. catarrhalis strain 035E – and cause ultrastructural damage to these pathogens. Moreover, we demonstrate that lysozyme and β defensin-2 can act synergistically against S. pneumoniae. These findings are consistent with the concept that secreted antimicrobial peptides and other components of innate immunity constitute the first line of defense protecting host mucosal surfaces, including the tubotympanal (eustachian tube and middle ear cavity) mucosa, against pathogens.
Hypoferremia is a common response to systemic infections or generalized inflammatory disorders. In mouse models, the development of hypoferremia during inflammation requires hepcidin, an iron regulatory peptide hormone produced in the liver, but the inflammatory signals that regulate hepcidin are largely unknown. Our studies in human liver cell cultures, mice, and human volunteers indicate that IL-6 is the necessary and sufficient cytokine for the induction of hepcidin during inflammation and that the IL-6–hepcidin axis is responsible for the hypoferremia of inflammation.