Short Palate, Lung, and Nasal Epithelial Clone-1 Is a Tightly Regulated Airway Sensor in Innate and Adaptive Immunity

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Short palate, lung, and nasal epithelial clone-1 (SPLUNC1) is a protein abundantly expressed by the respiratory epithelium of the proximal lower respiratory tract, a site of great environmental exposure. Previous studies showed that SPLUNC1 exerts antimicrobial effects, regulates airway surface liquid and mucociliary clearance, and suppresses allergic airway inflammation. We studied SPLUNC1 to gain insights into its role in host defense. In the lower respiratory tract, concentrations of SPLUNC1 are high under basal conditions. In models of pneumonia caused by common respiratory pathogens, and in Th1-induced and Th2-induced airway inflammation, SPLUNC1 secretion is markedly reduced. Pathogen-associated molecular patterns and IFN-γ act directly on airway epithelial cells to inhibit SPLUNC1 mRNA expression. Thus, SPLUNC1 is quickly suppressed during infection, in response to an insult on the epithelial surface. These experiments highlight the finely tuned fluctuations of SPLUNC1 in response to exposures in the respiratory tract, and suggest that the loss of SPLUNC1 is a crucial feature of host defense across air-breathing animal species.

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