Background: House dust mites produce serine and cysteine proteases. Mite-derived proteases have been suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of allergies; however, whether mite-derived serine protease activity can stimulate keratinocytes remains unknown.
Methods: We examined the activation of primary human keratinocytes by serine protease-rich extract of whole mite culture and compared with that by recombinant group 1 allergens (rDer f 1 and rDer p 1), which exclusively exhibit cysteine protease activity.
Results: Protease activity of whole mite culture extract (WCE), rDer f 1 and rDer p 1 induced the release of IL-8 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor. Protease activity of WCEs induced a significant upregulation of their mRNA expression but rDer f 1 had much less effect. Protease activity of the WCE stimulated intracellular Ca2+ mobilization but rDer f 1 and rDer p 1 did not. The mobilization induced by agonists for the human protease-activated receptor (PAR)-2, an agonist peptide or trypsin, was diminished by pre-incubation of keratinocytes with WCE. rDer f 1 inefficiently cleaved a synthetic N-terminal peptide of PAR-2 at different sites from trypsin, but the resultant peptides did not stimulate the release of interleukin-8.
Conclusions: The results suggest that mite-derived serine protease activity may contribute to the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis by activating keratinocytes via PAR-2 activation but cysteine protease activity of Der f 1 and Der p 1 acts via another mechanism.