Ferret tracheal epithelial cells grown in vitro are resistant to lethal injury by activated neutrophils.

Y. Chung*, C. M. Kercsmar, P. B. Davis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Airway inflammation is often accompanied by accumulation of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) as well as epithelial sloughing. To determine whether PMN contribute to epithelial damage in inflammatory states, we examined the interaction of PMN and tracheal epithelial cells in culture. Ferret tracheal epithelial (FTE) cells were grown in primary culture on collagen-coated multiwell dishes. Confluent monolayers were loaded with [51Cr]O4 and exposed to resting and activated neutrophils. There was no significant increase in cell death as assessed by [51Cr]O4 release over 8 h of exposure, at effector (PMN)-to-target cell (epithelial cell) ratios up to 90:1, whether PMN were activated by maximal activating concentrations of phorbol myristate acetate or formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine with or without cytochalasin B. This result was confirmed by using a [3H]leucine release assay as well as by uptake of a supravital dye. However, exposure of FTE cells to activated PMN for 4 h resulted in separation of adjacent cells and formation of gaps in the monolayer, without significant detachment of epithelial cells from the dish. Gap formation was prevented by alpha 1-antitrypsin, N-methoxysuccinyl-Ala-Ala-Pro-Val-chloromethylketone, or 10% serum, was mimicked by PMN elastase (24 micrograms/ml), but not by hydrogen peroxide in concentrations up to 10 mM, or superoxide generated by xanthine/xanthine oxidase, and was reversible within 24 h of removal of elastase and exposure to fresh medium. We conclude that activated PMN do not kill FTE cells in culture. However, disruption of the epithelial cell monolayer probably by a proteolytic mechanism can result from exposure to activated PMN and may allow alteration of the epithelial barrier during airway inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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