Sepsis induces changes in the expression and distribution of Toll-like receptor 4 in the rat kidney

Tarek M. El-Achkar, Xiaoping Huang, Zoya Plotkin, Ruben M. Sandoval, Georges J. Rhodes, Pierre C. Dagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

120 Scopus citations


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are now recognized as the major receptors for microbial pathogens on cells of the innate immune system. Recently, TLRs were also identified in many organs including the kidney. However, the cellular distribution and role of these renal TLRs remain largely unknown. In this paper, we investigated the expression of TLR4 in a cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) model of sepsis in Sprague-Dawley rats utilizing fluorescence microscopy. In sham animals, TLR4 was expressed predominantly in Tamm-Horsfall protein (THP)-positive tubules. In CLP animals, TLR4 expression increased markedly in all tubules (proximal and distal), glomeruli, and the renal vasculature. The staining showed a strong apical distribution in all tubules. A moderately less intense cellular signal colocalized partially with the Golgi apparatus. In addition, kidneys from septic rats showed increased expression of CD14 and THP. They each colocalized strongly with TLR4, albeit in different tubular segments. We also imaged the kidneys of live septic animals with two-photon microscopy after fluorescent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection. Within 10 min, LPS was seen at the brush border of some proximal tubules. Within 60 min, LPS was fully cytoplasmic in proximal tubules. Conversely, distal tubules showed no LPS uptake. We conclude that TLR4, CD14, and THP have specific renal cellular and tubular expression patterns that are markedly affected by sepsis. Systemic endotoxin can freely access the tubular and cellular sites where these proteins are present. Therefore, locally expressed TLRs and other interacting proteins could potentially modulate the renal response to systemic sepsis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F1034-F1043
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2006


  • CD14
  • Cecal ligation and puncture
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Tamm-Horsfall protein
  • TLR4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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