Mycobacterium abscessus—Bronchial Epithelial Cells Cross-Talk Through Type I Interferon Signaling

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6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Mycobacteria are aerobic non-motile organisms with lipid rich, hydrophobic cell walls that render them resistant to antibiotics. While there are over 150 different species of NTM, Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and Mycobacterium abscessus (MAB) are two of the most common culprits of pulmonary infection. MAB has been found to be most common in southeastern United States (Florida to Texas) and the third most rapidly growing NTM infection. It is responsible for chronic lung infections. Mycobacterial cell wall components initiate the interaction between bacteria and host. The reaction between bronchial epithelia and components in the envelope of mycobacterial cell wall is poorly understood. Methods: A lung-on-membrane model was developed with normal human bronchial epithelial (NHBE) cells re-differentiated at the air-liquid interface (ALI) and human endothelial cells on a transwell® polyester membrane. Microparticles from MAB cell walls were developed by an inhouse protocol and added to the ALI side of lung model. NHBE cells were harvested at day 3. RNA was isolated and analyzed with RNASeq. NHBE cells were lysed and protein assay was performed with western blot. We tested whether lung INF-alpha expression would increase in mice treated with intratracheal MAB cell wall particles. A paired t-test is used to compare two population means using GraphPad Prism 7 software. Results: RNAseq analysis identified 1759 differentially expressed genes between NHBE cells challenged with and without MAB microparticles with FDR < 0.5. 410 genes had a 2.5-fold change (FC) or greater. NHBE cells exposure to MAB microparticles significantly enriched the IFN I signaling pathway. Protein overexpression of IFN I family (2′-5′-Oligoadenylate Synthetase 1, Interferon-induced GTP-binding protein Mx1, Interferon-stimulated gene 15) was found in bronchial epithelial cells following exposure to MAB cell wall microparticles. IFN-α protein and gene expressions were significantly increased in mice lung challenged with microparticles in comparison with controls. Conclusion: These data strongly support the role of Type I IFN in cross-talk between NHBE cells and MAB. They also suggest that initiating immune response by NHBE cells may play a central role in innate immunity. Furthermore, this study underscores the importance of mycobacterial cell wall in initiating innate immune response.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2888
JournalFrontiers in immunology
StatePublished - Dec 9 2019


  • IFN
  • Interferon
  • Mycobacterium abscessus
  • bronchial epithelial cells
  • mycobacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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