Activated neutrophils produce serine proteases, which activate cells through protease-activated receptor 2 (PAR2). As proteinase 3 (PR3) induces the secretion of interleukin (IL)-18 from epithelial cells in combination with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in vitro, we examined whether neutrophils, serine proteases, and PAR2 are involved in the induction of serum IL-18 and IL-18-dependent liver injury in mice treated with heat-killed Propionibacterium acnes and LPS. LPS-induced serum IL-18 levels in P. acnes-primed mice were reduced significantly by anti-Gr-1 injection (depletion of neutrophils and macrophages) but not by a macrophage "suicide" technique, using liposomes encapsulating clodronate. The IL-18 induction was decreased significantly by coadministration of a serine protease inhibitor [Nafamostat mesilate (FUT-175)] with LPS. Serum levels of tumor necrosis factor α and liver enzymes induced by P. acnes and LPS were abolished by anti-Gr-1 treatment, and concomitantly, liver injury (necrotic change and granuloma formation) and Gr-1+ cell infiltration into the liver were prevented by the treatment. A deficiency of PAR2 in mice significantly impaired IL-18 induction by treatment with P. acnes and LPS, and only slight pathological changes in hepatic tissues occurred in the PAR2-deficient mice treated with P. acnes and LPS. Furthermore, coadministration of exogenous murine PR3 or a synthetic PAR2 agonist (ASKH95) with LPS in the anti-Gr-1-treated mice restored the serum IL-18 levels to those in control mice treated with P. acnes and LPS. These results indicate that neutrophil recruitment and PAR2 activation by neutrophil serine proteases are critically involved in the induction of IL-18 and IL-18-dependent liver injury in vivo.
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