© 2016 The Author(s). Background: Accumulating evidence suggest that the enteric nervous system (ENS) plays important roles in gastrointestinal inflammatory responses, which could be in part mediated by Toll-like receptor (TLR) activation. The aim of this study was to characterise the expression and functionality of TLR2/4/9 in the ENS. Methods: TLR2/4/9 expression was assessed in the plexuses of adult rats and embryonic ENS cultures by immunofluorescence and quantitative PCR. Following stimulation with TLR2/4/9 ligands or their combinations, activation of NF-kB, production of TNF-α, IL-6 and MCP-1 and chemoattraction of RAW264.7 macrophages were evaluated by means of Western blot, ELISA, immunofluorescence and migration assays in transwell inserts. Results: TLR2/4/9 staining colocalised with enteric neuronal markers, whereas their presence in enteroglial processes was low to inexistent. Stimulation of ENS cultures with selective ligands induced NF-kB activation and release of cytokines and chemokines by neurons and resident immunocytes. TLR2 neutralisation before lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge reduced production of inflammatory mediators, whereas combination of TLR2/4 ligands promoted macrophage migration. Combined stimulation of cultures with LPS and the CpG oligonucleotide 1826 (TLR4/9 ligands) caused a synergic increase in chemoattraction and cytokine production. Conclusions: Our results suggest that the ENS, and particularly enteric neurons, can integrate a variety of microbial signals and respond in a relatively selective fashion, depending on the particular TLRs stimulated. These findings additionally suggest that the ENS is capable of initiating a defensive response against pathogens and expanding inflammation.
- Enteric nervous system
- Enteric neuron