Haemophilus influenzae causes cellular trans-differentiation in human bronchial epithelia

Michael Glöckner*, Sebastian Marwitz, Kristina Rohmann, Henrik Watz, Dörte Nitschkowski, Jan Rupp, Klaus Dalhoff, Thorsten Goldmann, Daniel Drömann

*Corresponding author for this work


Non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae (NTHi) is the most common respiratory pathogen in patients with chronic obstructive disease. Limited data is available investigating the impact of NTHi infections on cellular re-differentiation processes in the bronchial mucosa. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of stimulation with NTHi on the bronchial epithelium regarding cellular re-differentiation processes using primary bronchial epithelial cells harvested from infection-free patients undergoing bronchoscopy. The cells were then cultivated using an air-liquid interface and stimulated with NTHi and TGF-β. Markers of epithelial and mesenchymal cells were analyzed using immunofluorescence, Western blot and qRT-PCR. Stimulation with both NTHi and TGF-ß led to a marked increase in the expression of the mesenchymal marker vimentin, while E-cadherin as an epithelial marker maintained a stable expression throughout the experiments. Furthermore, expression of collagen 4 and the matrix-metallopeptidases 2 and 9 were increased after stimulation, while the expression of tissue inhibitors of metallopeptidases was not affected by pathogen stimulation. In this study we show a direct pathogen-induced trans-differentiation of primary bronchial epithelial cells resulting in a co-localization of epithelial and mesenchymal markers and an up-regulation of extracellular matrix components.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInnate Immunity
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 04.2021

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)


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