We sought to determine the role of epithelium-produced thymic stromal lymphopoietin (TSLP) and its underlying mechanisms in corneal innate immune defense against Pseudomonas (P.) aeruginosa keratitis.
The expression of TSLP and TSLPR in cultured human corneal epithelial cells (HCECs) and mouse corneas was determined by PCR, Western, and/or ELISA. Cellular localization of TSLP receptor (TSLPR) was determined by whole mount confocal microscopy. TSLP-TSLPR signaling was downregulated by neutralizing antibodies and/or small interfering (si)RNA; their effects on the severity of P. aeruginosa-keratitis and cytokine expression were assessed using clinical scoring, bacterial counting, PMN infiltration, and real-time PCR. The role of dendritic cells (DCs) in corneal innate immunity was determined by local DC depletion using CD11c-DTR mice.
P. aeruginosa-infection induced the expression of TSLP and TSLPR in both cultured primary HCECs and in C57BL/6 mouse corneas. While TSLP was mostly expressed by epithelial cells, CD11c-positive cells were positive for TSLPR. Targeting TSLP or TSLPR with neutralizing antibodies or TSLPR with siRNA resulted in more severe keratitis, attributable to an increase in bacterial burden and PMN infiltration. TSLPR neutralization significantly suppressed infection-induced TSLP and interleukin (IL)-17C expression and augmented the expression of IL-23 and IL-17A. Local depletion of DCs markedly increased the severity of keratitis and exhibited no effects on TSLP and IL-23 expression while suppressing IL-17A and C expression in P. aeruginosa-infected corneas.
The epithelium-expressed TSLP plays a protective role in P. aeruginosa keratitis through targeting of DCs and in an IL-23/IL-17 signaling pathway-related manner.