Toll-like receptor 4 is not targeted to the lysosome in cystic fibrosis airway epithelial cells

Catriona Kelly, Paul Canning, Paul J. Buchanan, Mark T. Williams, Vanessa Brown, Dieter C. Gruenert, J. Stuart Elborn, Madeleine Ennis, Bettina C. Schock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The innate immune response to bacterial infection is mediated through Toll-like receptors (TLRs), which trigger tightly regulated signaling cascades through transcription factors including NF-κB. LPS activation of TLR4 triggers internalization of the receptor-ligand complex which is directed toward lysosomal degradation or endocytic recycling. Cystic fibrosis (CF) patients display a robust and uncontrolled inflammatory response to bacterial infection, suggesting a defect in regulation. This study examined the intracellular trafficking of TLR4 in CF and non-CF airway epithelial cells following stimulation with LPS. We employed cells lines [16hBE14o-, CFBE41o- (CF), and CFTR-complemented CFBE41o-] and confirmed selected experiments in primary nasal epithelial cells from non-CF controls and CF patients (F508del homozygous). In control cells, TLR4 expression (surface and cytoplasmic) was reduced after LPS stimulation but remained unchanged in CF cells and was accompanied by a heightened inflammatory response 24 h after stimulation. All cells expressed markers of the early (EEA1) and late (Rab7b) endosomes at basal levels. However, only CF cells displayed persistent expression of Rab7b following LPS stimulation. Rab7 variants may directly internalize bacteria to the Golgi for recycling or to the lysosome for degradation. TLR4 colocalized with the lysosomal marker LAMP1 in 16 hBE14o- cells, suggesting that TLR4 is targeted for lysosomal degradation in these cells. However, this colocalization was not observed in CFBE41o- cells, where persistent expression of Rab7 and release of proinflammatory cytokines was detected. Consistent with the apparent inability of CF cells to target TLR4 toward the lysosome for degradation, we observed persistent surface and cytoplasmic expression of this pathogen recognition receptor. This defect may account for the prolonged cycle of chronic inflammation associated with CF.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-382
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of physiology: Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number5
Early online date11 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013


  • cystic fibrosis
  • toll-like receptors
  • chronic inflammation


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