Detergent exposure induces epithelial barrier dysfunction and eosinophilic inflammation in the esophagus

Alfred D. Doyle, Mia Y. Masuda, Grace C. Pyon, Huijun Luo, Arina Putikova, William E. LeSuer, Samuel Flashner, Matthew A. Rank, Hiroshi Nakagawa, Hirohito Kita, Benjamin L. Wright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is a chronic allergic disease associated with type 2 inflammation and epithelial barrier dysfunction. The etiology is unknown, however, genetic heritability studies suggest environmental factors play a key role in pathogenesis. Detergents, such as sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS), are common ingredients in household products such as dish soap and toothpaste. We hypothesized detergent exposure decreases epithelial barrier function and induces esophageal inflammation. Methods: Immortalized esophageal epithelial cells (EPC2) were cultured in air-liquid interface (ALI) and exposed to SDS. Barrier function/activity was assessed by transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER), FITC-dextran flux, and RT-PCR. Additionally, SDS-treated mouse esophageal organoids were evaluated for morphology. To investigate the effects of SDS in vivo, mice were treated with 0.5% SDS in drinking water for 14 days. Esophagi were assessed by gross morphology, histopathology, protein expression, and bulk RNA sequencing. Results: When EPC2 cells were exposed to SDS (5 μg/ml) for 96 h, TEER decreased (p = 0.03), and FITC-dextran flux increased (p = 0.0002). mRNA expression of IL-33 increased 4.5-fold (p = 0.02) at 6 h and DSG1 decreased (p < 0.0001) by 72 h. Disrupted epithelial integrity was noted in SDS-treated esophageal organoids. When mice were exposed to SDS, they showed increased esophageal width, chemokine, and metalloprotease levels. Mice treated with SDS also showed increased IL-33 protein expression, basal zone hyperplasia, CD4+ cell infiltration, and esophageal eosinophilia. RNA sequencing revealed upregulation of immune response pathway genes. Conclusion: Exposure to SDS decreases esophageal barrier integrity, stimulates IL-33 production, and promotes epithelial hyperplasia and tissue eosinophilia. Detergents may be a key environmental trigger in EoE pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)192-201
Number of pages10
JournalAllergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • IL-33
  • detergent
  • eosinophilic esophagitis
  • epithelium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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