We have previously shown that leptospiral membrane lipoprotein preparation (LMLP) extracted from pathogenic Leptospira santarosai serovar Shermani stimulates the secretion of pro-inflammatory mediators in renal tubule epithelial cells, and implicated its role in the initiation of tubulointerstitial nephritis. Renal tubulointerstitial injury is characterized by inflammatory cell infiltrate; however, the stimuli for leukocyte recruitment are not fully understood. Initial studies by cytokine protein array analysis revealed significant upregulation of neutrophil-chemoattractant keratinocyte-derived chemokine (CXCL1/KC) at nanogram range of LMLP stimulation in cultured murine proximal tubule cells (PTCs). As PTCs express Toll-like receptors (TLRs), this study investigated the roles of TLR signaling pathways in PTCs stimulated by LMLP and its relation to CXCL1/KC secretion. The LMLP stimulated the early secretion of CXCL1/KC and enhanced the level of TLR2 mRNA expression in PTCs through time- and dose-dependent effect. The LMLP-stimulated secretion of human growth-related oncogene alpha, a functional homolog to murine KC, in TLR-defective human embryonic kidney 293 cells transiently transfected with TLR2-expressing plasmids and the response was augmented by coexpression of TLR1 and TLR2. Moreover, silencing of TLR2, myeloid differentiation factor 88, and TNF receptor-associated factor 6 with specific small interfering RNA significantly reduces the response caused by LMLP in PTCs. The LMLP-stimulated CXCL1/KC secretion was also significantly reduced by pre-incubating PTCs with a specific p38 inhibitor. These results indicate that LMLP stimulates the production of CXCL1/KC to recruit polymorphonuclear neutrophils at the site of inflammation through a TLR2-mediated pathway in renal tubule cells.
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