Sinonasal epithelial cell expression of toll-like receptor 9 is decreased in chronic rhinosinusitis with polyps

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Background: Innate immune recognition of pathogens by sinonasal epithelial cells may play an important role in the pathogenesis of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS). Previous studies have indicated that toll-like receptor (TLR) mRNA is present in sinonasal mucosa, and levels of TLR9 expression are decreased in recalcitrant CRS with nasal polyps (CRSwNP). However, the cellular source and function of TLR9 in the sinonasal epithelium is not known. In this study, primary epithelial cell cultures were analyzed from control subjects and CRSwNP patients to determine the presence and function of TLR9 protein. Methods: Primary epithelial cell cultures were established from 5 controls and 10 CRSwNP patients undergoing sinus surgery. Flow cytometry was used to confirm purity of epithelial cells and to assess expression of TLR9 protein. Epithelial cells were stimulated with TLR9 agonist, and mRNA was analyzed by real-rime PCR for expression of human β-defensin (HBD) 2 and interleukin (IL)-8. Results: Flow cytometry showed TLR9 protein in 100% of epithelial cells from controls and CRSwNP patients. The level of expression was 50% lower in CRS patients than in controls. Stimulation of epithelial cells with TLR9 agonist produced a 1.5- to 9-fold increase in HBD-2 and IL-8 mRNA expression. Conclusion: Functional TLR9 protein is expressed by normal and diseased sinonasal epithelial cells. The level of TLR9 expression is decreased in CRSwNP patients, consistent with the previous finding of decreased TLR9 mRNA in whole sinonasal tissue. These findings suggest that impaired innate immune responses to pathogens via TLR9 on sinonasal epithelial cells may representa critical mechanism in chronic inflammatory sinus disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-116
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Rhinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007


  • Innate immunity
  • Sinusitis
  • TLR9
  • Toll-like receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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