Vocal fold fibroblasts immunoregulate activated macrophage phenotype

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Recent evidence suggests that fibroblasts play a critical role in regulating inflammation during wound healing because they express several inflammatory mediators in response to bacteria. The objective of this study was to analyze the effects of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on the immunomodulatory properties of vocal fold fibroblasts (VFFs) derived from polyps, scar and normal tissue co-cultured with macrophages, to provide insight into their interactions during the inflammatory process. Fibroblasts were co-cultured with CD14+ monocytes and after 7 days, wells were treated with LPS for 24 and 72 h. Culture supernatants were collected and concentrations of TNF-α, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, IL-1β and MCP-1 were quantified by ELISA. Normal VFF and CD14+ monocultures were used as controls. Twenty-four hours after LPS activation, macrophages co-cultured with polyp VFF had significantly increased expression of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-12 and IL-10 compared to controls (p < 0.0001). In contrast, macrophages co-cultured with scar VFF had significantly lower expression of TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-12 with significantly higher IL-10 compared to control (p < 0.0001). After 72 h, macrophages co-cultured with polyp VFF increased expression of TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-10, IL-6, IL-8, MCP-1 and TGF-β (p < 0.01) and macrophages co-cultured with scar VFF significantly decreased their expression of IL-1β and IL-12 compared to control (p < 0.0001). Scar VFF at both time points produced significantly lower levels of IL-8, MCP-1, IL-6 and TGF-β compared to controls (p < 0.05). Based on our findings, VFF and macrophages secrete several inflammatory mediators that modify their diverse functions. Polyp and scar VFF may play a role in regulating abnormal inflammatory responses, which could result in excessive ECM deposition that disrupts the function of the vocal folds.

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