Enteroendocrine cells are hormone-secreting cells spread along the intestinal epithelium. Their principal function is to promote the digestion of food. However, little is known about other functions that these cells may play, since they are difficult to study as a whole endocrine organ due to their diffuse localization. It is known that the intestinal epithelial barrier is actively involved in the host defense against pathogen invasion. Here we applied gene expression profiling to characterize the response of the human LCC-18 enteroendocrine cell line to physiological and pathological stimuli mimicked by fatty acids (FAs), flagellin and LPS exposure. We observed that these cells participate in an innate immune reaction to pathogens through the expression of pro-inflammatory factors (i.e. CXCL1 and 3 and IL-32) that we could validate by molecular and proteomic approach. Interestingly, IL-32 has been recently found over-expressed in the inflamed mucosa of patients affected by inflammatory bowel disease. This is very important because modifications of enteroendocrine cells during intestinal inflammation have been so far considered as secondary effects of the inflammatory status rather than due to direct pathogen/enteroendocrine cell interaction. As expected, FAs exposure up-regulates pro-differentiative genes and the production of cholecystokinin but it does not enhance the expression of pro-inflammatory genes. The present observations enlighten a new aspect of the cross talk between immune and endocrine system and suggest enteroendocrine cells as important contributors of inflammatory processes occurring in the gut in response to pathogen exposure and direct enhancers of the inflammatory status associated with human inflammatory bowel disease.
- Enteroendocrine cells
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