Systems biology evaluation of immune responses induced by human host defence peptide LL-37 in mononuclear cells.


The immune system is very complex, it involves the integrated regulation and expression of hundreds of proteins. To understand in greater detail how the human host defence immunomodulatory peptide LL-37 interacts with innate immunity, a systems approach was pursued. Polychromatic flow cytometry was employed to demonstrate that within human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, CD14+ monocytes, myeloid and plasmocytoid dendritic cells and T- and B-lymphocytes, all responded to LL-37, with the differential production of intracellular cytokines. Microarray analyses with CD14+ monocytes indicated the differential expression of 475 genes in response to stimulation with LL-37. To understand this complex response, bioinformatic interrogation, using InnateDB, of the gene ontology, signalling pathways and transcription factor binding sites was undertaken. Activation of the IkappaBalpha/NFkappaB, mitogen-activated protein kinases p38, ERK1/2 and JNK, and PI3K signalling pathways in response to LL-37 was demonstrated by pathway and ontology over-representation analyses, and confirmed experimentally by inhibitor studies. Computational analysis of the predicted transcription factor binding sites upstream of the genes that were regulated by LL-37 predicted the involvement of several transcription factors including NFkappaB and five novel factors, AP-1, AP-2, SP-1, E2F1, and EGR, which were experimentally confirmed to respond to LL-37 by performing transcription factor array studies on nuclear extracts from LL-37 treated mononuclear cells. These data are discussed as reflecting the integration of several responsive signalling pathways through the involvement of transcription factor complexes in gene expression activated by LL-37 in human mononuclear cells.

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