Primary alveolar epithelial cell surface membrane microdomain function is required for Pneumocystis β-glucan-induced inflammatory responses

Scott E. Evans, Theodore J. Kottom, Richard E. Pagano, Andrew H. Limper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Intense lung inflammation characterizes respiratory failure associated with Pneumocystis pneumonia. Our laboratory has previously demonstrated that alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) elaborate inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in response to the Pneumocystis carinii cell wall constituent β-(1→3)-glucan (PCBG), and that these responses require lactosylceramide, a prominent glycosphingolipid constituent of certain cell membrane microdomains. The relevance of membrane microdomains, also termed plasma membrane lipid rafts, in cell signaling and macromolecule handling has been increasingly recognized in many biologic systems, but their role in P. carinii-induced inflammation is unknown. To investigate the mechanisms of microdomain-dependent P. carinii-induced inflammation, we challenged primary rat AECs with PCBG with or without pre-incubation with inhibitors of microdomain function. Glycosphingolipid and cholesterol rich microdomain inhibition resulted in significant attenuation of P. carinii-induced expression of TNF-α and the rodent C-X-C chemokine MIP-2, as well as their known inflammatory secondary signaling pathways. We have previously shown that protein kinase C (PKC) is activated by PCBG challenge and herein show that PKC localizes to AEC microdomains. We also demonstrate by conventional microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, confocal microscopy and spectrophotofluorimetry that AECs internalize fluorescently-labeled PCBG by microdomain-mediated mechanisms, and that anti-microdomain pretreatments prevent internalization. Taken together, these data suggest an important role for AEC microdomain function in PCBG-induced inflammatory responses. This offers a potential novel target for therapeutics for a condition that continues to exert unacceptable morbidity and mortality among immunocompromised populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-716
Number of pages8
JournalInnate Immunity
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Pneumocystis
  • beta-glucan
  • epithelial cells
  • membrane microdomains

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Infectious Diseases


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