Regulation of local immunity by airway epithelial cells
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Epithelial cells are the first line of defense against invading microbial pathogens. They are important contributors to innate mucosal immunity and generate various and sophisticated anti-microbial defense mechanisms, including the formation of a tight barrier and secretion of anti-microbial substances as well as inflammatory mediators. To provide these active defense mechanisms, epithelial cells functionally express various pattern-recognition receptors. Toll-like receptors have been shown to recognize conserved microbial patterns mediating inducible activation of innate immunity. Mucosal surfaces, however, are prone to contact with pathogenic as well as non-pathogenic microbes and, therefore, immune-recognition principles have to be strictly regulated to avoid uncontrolled permanent activation. This review will focus on mechanisms by which epithelial cells regulate mucosal immune responses, thus creating an organ-specific microenvironment. This includes local adaptations in microbial recognition, regulation of local immune homeostasis, and modulation of antigen-presenting cells and adaptive immune responses. These regulatory mechanisms serve the special needs of controlled microbial recognition in mucosal compartments.
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Alexander Dalpke, Department of Hygiene and Medical Microbiology, Hygiene Institute, University of Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany