Polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate is effective in the prevention of respiratory tract infections, although its mechanism of action is not entirely elucidated. Because epithelial cells constitute the frontline defense against infections, we investigated the molecular mechanisms of innate response exerted by bronchial epithelial cells in the presence of polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate. By using primary human bronchial epithelial cells, we observed that polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate was able to increase the expression of cellular adhesion molecules such as ICAM-1 and E-cadherin, as well as the expression of amphiregulin, a growth factor able to support human bronchial epithelial cell proliferation. Remarkably, polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate promoted in human bronchial epithelial cells the de novo expression of human beta-defensin-2, a major antimicrobial peptide, conferring them a direct antimicrobial activity. Moreover, polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate-stimulated human bronchial epithelial cells provided signals for increased IL-22 production by innate lymphoid cells via IL-23, which could further contribute to the release of antimicrobial peptides by epithelial cells. In agreement with these in vitro data, the concentration of both IL-23 and antimicrobial peptides (human beta-defensin-2 and LL-37) increased in the saliva of healthy volunteers after sublingual administration of polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate. Altogether, these results indicate that polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate administration might support mucosal barrier integrity and promote mechanisms of antimicrobial activity in airway epithelial cells.Polyvalent mechanical bacterial lysate can promote epithelial barrier functions and release of antimicrobial peptides by stimulating a protective immune pathway, which involves epithelial cells, dendritic cells, and group 3 innate lymphoid cells.
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