Responses of increasingly complex intestinal epithelium in vitro models to bacterial toll-like receptor agonists

Grouls, Menno; Zande, Meike van der; Haan, Laura de; Bouwmeester, Hans


The intestine fulfills roles in the uptake of nutrients and water regulation and acts as a gatekeeper for the intestinal microbiome. For the latter, the intestinal gut barrier system is able to respond to a broad range of bacterial antigens, generally through Toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling pathways. To test the capacity of various in vitro intestinal models, we studied IL-8 secretion, as a marker of pro-inflammatory response through the TLR pathway, in a Caco-2 monoculture, Caco-2/HT29-MTX di-culture, Caco-2/HT29-MTX/HMVEC-d tri-culture and in a HT29-p monoculture in response to exposure to various TLR agonists. Twenty-one-day-old differentiated cells in Transwells were exposed to Pam3CSK4 (TLR1/2), lipopolysaccharide (TLR4), single-stranded RNA (TLR7/8), Poly(i:C) (TLR3) and flagellin (TLR5) for 24 h. In all systems IL-8 secretion was increased in response to flagellin exposure, with HT29-p cells also responding to Poly(I:C) exposure. All other agonists did not induce an IL-8 response in the tested in vitro models, indicating that the specific TLRs are either not present or not functional in these models. This highlights the need for careful selection of in vitro models when studying intestinal immune responses and the need for improved in vitro models that better recapitulate intestinal immune responses.