• Lungs;
  • Toll-Like Receptor;
  • Inflammation;
  • Ethanol;
  • Burn

Background:  Clinical and laboratory evidence suggests that alcohol consumption prior to burn injury leads to dysregulated immune function and subsequent higher rates of morbidity and mortality. Our laboratory previously observed higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and leukocyte infiltration in the lungs of mice following ethanol and burn injury. To understand the mechanism of the increased inflammatory response, we looked at different signaling initiators of inflammation including toll-like receptors 2 and 4 (TLR2 and 4) pathways.

Methods:  Wild-type, TLR2, and TLR4 knockout mice were treated with vehicle or a single binge dose of ethanol (1.11 g/kg) and subsequently given a sham or burn injury. Twenty-four hours postinjury, systemic and pulmonary levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were quantified, and differences in neutrophil infiltration were determined by histological examination.

Results:  Higher numbers of neutrophils were observed in the lungs of wild-type mice following the combined insult of ethanol and burn injury relative to either injury alone. This increase in leukocyte accumulation was absent in the TLR4 knockout mice. Circulating levels of IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α were also elevated in wild-type mice but not in TLR4 knockout mice. Consistent with these findings, pulmonary levels of KC and IL-6 were increased in wild-type mice following burn and ethanol compared to burn injury alone as well as to their TLR4 knockout counterparts. In contrast, TLR2 knockout mice displayed similar levels, to wild-type mice, of neutrophil infiltration as well as IL-6 and KC in the lung.

Conclusions:  These data suggest that TLR4 signaling is a crucial contributory component in the exuberant inflammation after ethanol and burn injury. However, TLR2 does not appear to play a vital role in the aberrant pulmonary inflammation.