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Keywords:

  • anti-microbial activity;
  • defensins;
  • intestinal epithelial cells;
  • probiotics

Summary

Recent evidence suggests that probiotic bacteria may stabilize gut barrier function via induction of anti-microbial peptides such as defensins. This study aimed to elucidate the induction mechanism of the human beta defensin-2 (hBD-2) gene by different probiotic lactobacillus strains. The expression of hBD-2 mRNA peaked at 6 h of incubation upon treatment of Caco-2 cells and increased with higher dosage of various probiotic bacteria. Deletion of nuclear factor (NF)-κB and activator protein-1 (AP-1) binding sites on the hBD-2 promoter resulted in a complete abrogation of promoter activation by probiotics. As revealed by the use of specific mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) inhibitors the hBD-2 induction was dependent on the MAPK extracellular regulated kinase (ERK 1/2), p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK), although to varying degrees. Several Lactobacillus strains and VSL#3, a probiotic cocktail of four lactobacilli, three bifidum and one streptococcus species, induced the secretion of the hBD-2 peptide into the culture media as shown by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Thus, the present study suggests that lactobacilli and the VSL#3 bacterial mixture strengthen intestinal barrier functions through the up-regulation of hBD-2 via induction of proinflammatory pathways including NF-κB and AP-1 as well as MAPKs.