Human β-defensin-2 production upon viral and bacterial coinfection is attenuated in COPD

Jason W. Arnason, James C. Murphy, Cora Kooi, Shahina Wiehler, Suzanne L. Traves, Christopher Shelfoon, Barbara MacIejewski, Curtis J. Dumonceaux, W. Shawn Lewenza, David Proud, Richard Leigh

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19 Citations (Scopus)


Viral-bacterial co-infections are associated with severe exacerbations of COPD. Epithelial antimicrobial peptides, including human â- defensin-2 (HBD-2), are integral to innate host defenses. In this study, we examined how co-infection of airway epithelial cells with rhinovirus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa modulates HBD-2 expression, and whether these responses are attenuated by cigarette smoke and in epithelial cells obtained by bronchial brushings from smokers with normal lung function or from COPD patients. When human airway epithelial cells from normal lungs were infected with rhinovirus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or the combination, coinfection with rhinovirus and bacteria resulted in synergistic induction of HBD-2 (p<0.05). The combination of virus and flagellin replicated this synergistic increase (p<0.05), and synergy was not seen using a flagella-deficient mutant Pseudomonas (p<0.05). The effects of Pseudomonas aeruginosa were mediated via interactions of flagellin with TLR5. The effects of HRV-16 depended upon viral replication but did not appear to be mediated via the intracellular RNA helicases, retinoic acid-inducible gene-I or melanoma differentiation-associated gene-5. Cigarette smoke extract significantly decreased HBD-2 production in response to co-infection. Attenuated production was also observed following co-infection of cells obtained from healthy smokers or COPD patients compared to healthy controls (p<0.05). We conclude that co-exposure to HRV-16 and Pseudomonas aeruginosa induces synergistic production of HBD-2 from epithelial cells and that this synergistic induction of HBD-2 is reduced in COPD patients. This may contribute to the more severe exacerbations these patients experience in response to viral-bacterial co-infections.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0175963
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


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