Background and Aims: To determine the functional role of immune mediators in the formation of the intestinal barrier, we have examined the regulation of claudin expression by interleukin (IL)-17 in human intestinal epithelial cells. Methods: Expression of claudins, extracellular signal- related (ERK) mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), and activated ERK MAPKs was determined by immunoblotting. Claudin membrane association was assessed by immunohistochemistry and claudin messenger RNA expression by Northern blot analysis. Intestinal epithelial barrier function was characterized through transepithelial electrical resistance and mannitol tracer flux. Results: IL-17 induced the development of a paracellular barrier of T84 cell monolayers. Inhibition of ERK activation with the MEK inhibitor PD98059 blocked IL-17 as well as basal development of tight junctions in T84 cells. IL-17 induced formation of tight junctions correlated with up- regulation of claudin-1 and claudin-2 gene transcription. Inhibition of MEK reduced the activated and basal expression of claudin-2 messenger RNA and protein expression. Functional MEK was required for the expression and membrane association of claudin-2 but not claudin-1 in T84 cells. Conclusions: MEK activity is required for claudin-mediated formation of tight junctions. IL-17 is able to regulate the intestinal barrier through the ERK MAPK pathway.
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