The objective of the present study was to examine the expression of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) by mouse uterine epithelial cells and to determine if stimulation of the expressed TLR induces changes in cytokine and/or chemokine secretion. Using RT-PCR, the expression of TLRs 1–6 by mouse uterine epithelial cells was demonstrated, with TLRs 7–9 expressed only periodically. In the absence of pathogen-associated molecular patterns, polarized uterine epithelial cells constitutively secrete interleukin (IL) 1A, cysteine-cysteine ligand (CCL) 2, IL6, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor 2 (CSF2), tumor necrosis factor A (TNFA), CSF3, and IL8 in vitro, with levels of cytokines/chemokines secreted into the apical compartment being significantly greater than those released into the basolateral compartment. When added to the apical surface for 48 h before analysis, the TLR2-agonist Pam3Cys-Ser-(Lys)4 and TLR1/6-agonist peptidoglycan increased epithelial cell apical secretion of IL1A, CCL2, and IL6 and apical/basolateral bidirectional secretion of CSF2, TNFA, CSF3, and IL8 when compared to controls. The TLR3-agonist poly (I:C) significantly increased bidirectional secretion of CCL2, IL6, TNFA, and CSF2 and basolateral secretion of CSF3. Lastly, the TLR4-agonist lipopolysaccharide increased bidirectional secretion CCL2, CSF2, TNFA, CSF3, and IL8 and apical secretion of IL6. These results indicate that mRNAs for Tlr1 through Tlr6 are expressed by uterine epithelial cells and that treatment with specific TLR agonists alters the expression of key chemokines and proinflammatory cytokines that contribute to the defense of the uterus against potential pathogens.
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