Background: Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are elevated in pleural fluids of tuberculous pleuritis (TBP) where pleural mesothelial cells (PMCs) conduct the first-line defense against Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB). However, the clinical implication of TNF-α and MMPs in TBP and the response of PMCs to MTB infection remain unclear. Methods: We measured pleural fluid levels of TNF-α and MMPs in patients with TBP (n = 18) or heart failure (n = 18) as controls. Radiological scores for initial effusion amount and residual pleural fibrosis at 6-month follow-up were assessed. In vitro human PMC experiments were performed to assess the effect of heat-killed M. tuberculosis H37Ra (MTBRa) on the expression of TNF-α and MMPs. Results: As compared with controls, the effusion levels of TNF-α, MMP-1 and MMP-9 were significantly higher and correlated positively with initial effusion amount in patients with TBP, while TNF-α and MMP-1, but not MMP-9, were positively associated with residual pleural fibrosis of TBP. Moreover, effusion levels of TNF-α had positive correlation with those of MMP-1 and MMP-9 in TBP. In cultured PMCs, MTBRa enhanced TLR2 and TLR4 expression, activated ERK signaling, and upregulated TNF-α mRNA and protein expression. Furthermore, knockdown of TLR2, but not TLR4, significantly inhibited ERK phosphorylation and TNF-α expression. Additionally, both MTBRa and TNF-α markedly induced MMP-1 and MMP-9 synthesis in human PMCs, and TNF-α neutralization substantially reduced the production of MMP-1, but not MMP-9, in response to MTBRa stimulation. Conclusion: MTBRa activates TLR2/ERK signalings to induce TNF-α and elicit MMP-1 and MMP-9 in human PMCs, which are associated with effusion volume and pleural fibrosis and may contribute to pathogenesis of TBP. Further investigation of manipulation of TNF-α and MMP expression in pleural mesothelium may provide new insights into the mechanisms and rational treatment strategies for TBP.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0137979
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 14 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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