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Effects of E. Coli Infection on the Expressions of TGF-β/Smads Signaling Pathway in Broiler Intestine

ABSTRACT

This experiment aimed to investigate whether Escherichia coli (E. coli) infection could affect the TGF-β/smads signaling pathway in the jejunal tissue of chickens. One-day-old Cobb 500 broilers were randomly divided into 2 groups and treated with intraperitoneal E. coli or broth injection. Clinical signs of the birds were assessed every day. Spleen and bursa of Fabricius of the birds, post-infection (pi), were collected to evaluate immune organ index. Jejunal tissues were collected to ascertain the expression of TGF-βs, TβRs, and Smads. The results showed that the infected birds had significantly higher index of the spleen (24hrs and 48hrs pi) compared with birds in the control group (p<0.05). The relative gene expression of TGF-β4 increased (p<0.05), while the expression of Smad7 down-regulated in the E. coli group (p<0.01). There was no significant difference in TGF-β2, TGF-β3, TβR I, TβR II, Smad2, Smad3 expression (p>0.05). In conclusion, TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway was associated with the immune response of broilers in E. coli infection and TGF-β4 was the main subtype interacting with E. coli infection.

Keywords:
TGF-β/Smads; Intestinal lesion; E. coli; Chicken

INTRODUCTION

The intestinal mucosa is an important assurance for health which possesses a complex epithelial barrier to a broad spectrum of inflammation, oxidative stress, and microbes (Howe et al., 2015). Escherichia coli is one of the most common pathogens of animal intestinal flora (McDonald et al., 2001McDonald LC, Chen FJ, Lo HJ, Yin HC, Lu PL, Huang CH, Ho M. Emergence of Reduced Susceptibility and Resistance to Fluoroquinolones in Escherichia coliin Taiwan and Contributions of Distinct Selective Pressures. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy 2001;45(11): 3084-3091.) and avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC) cause great economic loss every year in poultry (Moniri & Dastehgoli 2005Moniri R, Dastehgoli K. Fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli isolated from healthy broilers with previous exposure to fluoroquinolones: Is there a link? Microbial ecology in health and disease 2005;17(2):69-74.). The intestinal tract is damaged when APEC is colonized in the intestinal. Epithelial cells represent a dynamic continuum of cellular structure and function, and cells at the tip of the villus have a specialized absorptive and digestive function (Barnard et al., 1989Barnard JA, Beauchamp RD, Coffey RJ, Moses HL. Regulation of intestinal epithelial cell growth by transforming growth factor type beta. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1989;86(5):1578-1582.). Thus, the disruption of the intestinal barrier not only affects the absorption of the nutrients but also induces diseases, such as multiple organ dysfunctions, systemic inflammatory response syndrome, diarrhea, and others.

Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) superfamily, produced by a wide range of cells, composed of multifunctional cytokines implicate in the processes of various diseases (Tohidi et al.2012Tohidi R, Idris I B, Panandam J M, Bejo M H. The effects of polymorphisms in IL-2, IFN-γ, TGF-β2, IgL, TLR-4, MD-2, and iNOS geneks on resistance to Salmonella Enteritidis in indigenous chickens. Avian pathology 2012; 41(6): 605-612.). TGF-β can suppress inflammatory responses to intestinal bacterial antigens and play an important role in the induction of immune tolerance (Ihara et al., 2017Ihara S, Hirata Y, Koike K. TGF-beta in inflammatory bowel disease: a key regulator of immune cells, epithelium, and the intestinal microbiota. Journal of gastroenterology 2017;52(7): 777-787.). Studies demonstrated that TGF-β has shown a remarkable ability to protect the epithelial barrier function from the penetration of foreign antigens through countering the effect of T-cell cytokines (Monteleone et al., 2001Monteleone G, Kumberova A, Croft NM, McKenziem C, Steer HW, MacDonald TT. Blocking Smad7 restores TGF-β1 signaling in chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation 2001;108(4):601-609.; Planchon et al., 1994Planchon SM, Martins C, Guerrant RL, Roche JK. Regulation of intestinal epithelial barrier function by TGF-beta 1. Evidence for its role in abrogating the effect of a T cell cytokine. The Journal of Immunology 1994;153(12): 5730-5739.).

TGF-β plays its biologic role primarily through the canonical Smads signaling pathway which has three isoforms that are involved in several developmental processes as TGF-βs, TβRs and Smads (Derynck & Zhang 2003Derynck R, Zhang YE. Smad-dependent and Smad-independent pathways in TGF-β family signalling. Nature 2003;425(6958): 577-584.; Heldin et al., 1997Heldin CH, Miyazono K, Dijke, P ten. TGF-β signalling from cell membrane to nucleus through SMAD proteins. Nature 1997;390(6659):465.; Moustakas et al., 2001Moustakas A, Souchelnytskyi S, Heldin C H. Smad regulation in TGF-β signal transduction. Journal of Cell Science 2001;114(24): 4359-4369.). A variety of diseases would happen if these factors were changed or defected in broilers (Hahm et al., 2001Hahm K, Im Y, Parks T, Park S, Markowitz S, Jung H, Green J, Kim S. Loss of transforming growth factor ? signaling in the intestine contributes to tissue injury in inflammatory bowel disease. Gut 2001;49(2):190-198.). However, little data is available about changes of TGF-βs, TβRs and Smads signaling pathway in early E. coli infection in broilers. Therefore, the present study aimed to gain more insight into the changes of the TGF-β/Smads signaling pathway in broilers infected with E. coli.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Animals and diets

One-day-old male broilers (Cobb 500) were bought from a local commercial hatchery (Dayong co. Ltd, Shangqiu, Henan, China). The broiler chicks were maintained in chicken coops and raised in an environmentally controlled room and the temperature was maintained at 34-36 ºC during the experiment. All of the birds had free access to water and commercial corn-soybean basal diets (Table 1). The birds were kept under incandescent lighting on a light schedule of 24hrs light.

Table 1
Nutrition content of diet used in the experiment.

E. Coli culture condition

The E. coli (O1: K1) strain used was kept in our laboratory. The bacterial strain was cultivated in Luria-Bertani (LB) broth for 24hrs at 37 ºC, after which a single colony was inoculated and cultivated in LB broth at 37 ºC for 18hrs with shaking. After this time the culture was diluted in brain-heart infusion and an inoculum of approximately 109 CFU/mL (colony-forming units). The final concentration of the microorganism for the assay was about 6×109 CFU/mL.

Experimental Procedure

Forty-eight chickens of one-week of age were randomly assigned to 2 groups and 12 birds were sampled at each time point (6 for each). One group was injected with 0.5 ml 6×109 CFU/mL E. coli according to the pre-test. Meanwhile, the other group was the control group and received the same amount of LB-Miller broth.

Sample collection

The chicken were weighed before they were killed by exsanguination after receiving the injection. The jejunum samples of 6hrs post injection (pi) were rapidly isolated and freezed immediately with liquid nitrogen and then preserved in a freezer at -70 ºC for subsequent isolation of total RNA. The spleen and bursa of Fabricius were excised and weighed at 6hrs, 12hrs, 24hrs, and 48hrs pi, and the indices (organ weight/body weight ratio) were calculated.

RNA Isolation and cDNA Synthesis

The TRIzol reagent (Invitrogen) was used to isolate total RNA and the method was performed according to the manufacturer’s instruction. The RNA integrity was assessed and purity was determined. Ratios of absorption (260/280nm) of all samples were between 1.8 and 2.0. The RNA sample (1µg) was reversely transcribed into cDNA using First Strand cDNA Synthesis Kit (Dingguo Changsheng, Beijing), and synthesized cDNA was kept in a freezer under -20 ºC.

Quantitative Real-time PCR Analysis of Gene Expression

The expression of genes mRNA was performed on the Mastercycler ep realplex Real-Time PCR Detection System (Eppendorf) using GoTaq® qPCR Master Mix (Promega, USA) according to the kit’s instructions. Polymerase chain reaction system was performed in 10 µL containing 2 µL of the synthesized cDNA, 5µL GoTaq® qPCR Master Mix (Promega, USA), 0.5µL of each candidate gene or reference gene (GAPDH) specific primer (Table 2) and RNase Free ddH2O 2 µL. At the final step of the PCR, dissociation curves of the products were identified. Fluorescent data were used to derive the C(t) at default threshold values. The resultant value was expressed relative to GAPDH, which showed no variation among treatment groups. The fold changes of relative gene expression were analyzed using the 2−ΔΔC(t) method (Livak & Schmittgen 2001Livak KJ, Schmittgen TD. Analysis of relative gene expression data using real-time quantitative PCR and the 2- ΔΔCT method. Methods 2001;25(4): 402-408.).

Table 2
Sequences of PCR primers.

Data Analyses

The predictive Analytics Software (PASW) version 18.0 software (SPSS Inc. USA) was used to process data. Independent-samples t-tests were used to test for significant differences between the E. coli infected and control group. Differences between infected and control group were considered statistically significant at p<0.05. Values were expressed as means ? SE.

RESULTS

Clinical Sighs of Chicken Infected with E. coli

Throughout the experiment, the control group showed no abnormality in clinical signs. By contrast, the chicks infected with E. coli demonstrated huddling, shivering and inactivity. At 6hrs pi, the chicks were killed, and it was found that the abdominal cavity and intestinal surface of the experiment group was filled with a yellowish exudate. There were no obvious pathological changes in the tissues in the control group.

Immune Organ Index of Chicken

As shown in Table 3 and 4, compared with the control group, E. coli had no significant influence on the index of the spleen at 6hrs and 12hrs after the infection (p<0.05), while the index of spleen increased at 24hrs and 48hrs pi (p<0.05). A significant difference in the index of bursa of Fabricius was observed on 12hrs pi.

Table 3
The index of spleen of chicken after challenge.
Table 4
The index of bursa of Fabricius of chicken after challenge.

Expression of TGF-β/Smads signaling pathway

To determine the mRNA expression of the TGF-β/Smads pathway in the intestine to E. coli infection, we studied the production levels of TGF-β 2, 3, 4, and TβR I , II and Smad 2,3,7 in the jejunum of chicken at 6hrs pi (Fig.1). Compared with the control group, the gene expression of TGF-β4 was up-regulated significantly after E. coli infection (p<0.05), but no significant differences of TGF-β2, TGF-β3, and TβR I, TβR II were found (p>0.05). Smad2 and Smad3 mRNA also showed no significant differences, while the expression of Smad7 mRNA was significantly down-regulated in the E. coli infected intestine at 6hrs pi (p<0.05).

Figure 1
Relative expression of TGF-β/smads related genes in the jejunum of E. Coli infected chicken. A, TGF-β2; B, TGF-β3; C, TGF-β4; D, TβR I; E, TβR II; H, Smad 2; I, Smad 3; J, Smad 7. Data were expressed as means ± SE. * Indicate significant difference p< 0.05.

DISCUSSION

The intestinal mucosa is an internal and external surface of the body that possesses biological barrier, mechanical barrier, and immune barrier and therefore forms an important physical barrier against pathogens and toxic macromolecules (Ruemmele & Garnier-Lengliné 2013; Springler et al., 2016Springler A, Hessenberger S, Schatzmayr G, Mayer E. Early activation of MAPK p44/42 is partially involved in DON-induced disruption of the intestinal barrier function and tight junction network. Toxins 2016;8(9): 264.). Infections with APEC cause the intestinal mucosal barrier of the chicken to be injured and the permeability of the gut to increase, accompanied by endotoxin translocation. When stimulated, the size of the immune organs will change. The weight of the spleen and the bursa of Fabricius reflects the immune response of chicken to some extent (Rivas & Fabricant, 1988). In this experiment, both the spleen index and the bursa of Fabricius index were observed to increase post-infection. The birds were using the cellular and humoral immunity to defend against E. coli infection.

TGF-β is a potent negative regulator of mucosal inflammation and it has been proved that TGF-β rich diet reduced intestinal injury in the acute phase and improved recovery of mucositis in the gut (Boukhettala et al., 2010Boukhettala N, Ibrahim A, Claeyssens S, Faure M, Le Pessot F, Vuichoud J, et al., A diet containing whey protein, glutamine, and TGFβ modulates gut protein metabolism during chemotherapy-induced mucositis in rats. Digestive diseases and sciences 2010; 55(8): 2172-2181.). But the molecular mechanism of TGF-βs, especially TGF-β4 in avian, is not well known. TGF-β/Smads dependent pathway has not been identified when broilers were infected with E. coli. Therefore, we characterized the effect of E. coli on the expression of TGF-β/Smads related genes. The results of our study showed that the expression of TGF-β4 significantly increased post E. coli infection, while, TGF-β2 and TGF-β3 showed no significant changes. Although the three isoforms of TGF-βs are expressed in inflammatory tissues, the role of TGF-β subjects is not entirely consistent. TGF-β2 was thought to be the least effective in intestinal wound repair (Govinden, 2003Govinden R, Bhoola K D. Genealogy, expression, and cellular function of transforming growth factor-beta. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2003; 98(2):257-265.). The results of our study showed that TGF-β4 has a closer relationship with the inflammatory reaction induced by E. coli in chicken intestinal.

TGF-β signals are transduced by a heteromeric complex formed by TβR I and TβR II receptors. TβRI and TβR II receptor are two transmembrane serine/threonine kinases (Derynck & Feng 1997Derynck R, Feng X-H. TGF-β receptor signaling. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Reviews on Cancer 1997;1333(2): F105-F150.; Franzen et al., 1993Franzen P, Dijke P ten, Ichijo H, Yamashita H, Schulz P, Heldin CH, et al., Cloning of a TGFβ type I receptor that forms a heteromeric complex with the TGFβ type II receptor. Cell1993;75(4):681-692.; Wrana et al., 1994Wrana JL, Attisano L, Wieser R, Ventura F, Massague J. Mechanism of activation of the TGF-β receptor. Nature 1994;370(6488): 341-346.). In the present study, TβR I, TβR II had no significant change (Fig1D, E). Smad proteins are critical downstream mediators responsible for propagating biological effects of TGF-β (Heldin et al., 1997Heldin CH, Miyazono K, Dijke, P ten. TGF-β signalling from cell membrane to nucleus through SMAD proteins. Nature 1997;390(6659):465.). In this study, the expression of Smad7 significantly decreased (p<0.05) (Fig1J). Smad7 is one kind of antagonistic Smads which are key negative regulators of TGF-β/Smads signaling system by a feedback loop (Nakao et al., 1997Nakao A, Afrakhte M, Morn A, Nakayama T, Christian J L, Heuchel R, et al., Identification of Smad7, a TGFβ-inducible antagonist of TGF-β signalling. Nature 1997;389(6651): 631-635.; Yan et al., 2009Yan X, Liu Z, Chen Y. Regulation of TGF-β signaling by Smad7. Acta biochimica et biophysica Sinica 2009;41(4): 263-272.).

It has been reported that Smad7 can directly form a stable complex with TβRI receptor, thereby preventing the phosphorylation of R-Smad and hetero-complex formation between R-Smads and Co-Smad by its antagonistic effect (Hayashi et al., 1997Hayashi H, Abdollah S, Qiu Y, Cai J, Xu YY, Grinnell BW, et al., The MAD-related protein Smad7 associates with the TGFβ receptor and functions as an antagonist of TGFβ signaling. Cell 1997;89(7): 1165-1173.; Nakao et al., 1997Nakao A, Afrakhte M, Morn A, Nakayama T, Christian J L, Heuchel R, et al., Identification of Smad7, a TGFβ-inducible antagonist of TGF-β signalling. Nature 1997;389(6651): 631-635.; Shu,2016Shu Y, Liu Y, Li X, Xinxin L, Ling C, Xiaolong Y, et al., Aspirin-Triggered Resolvin D1 Inhibits TGF-β1-Induced EndMT through Increasing the Expression of Smad7 and Is Closely Related to Oxidative Stress. Biomolecules & Therapeutics 2016;24(2):132-139.). In the present study, the increase of TGF-β4 and decrease of Smad7 expression to suppress E.coli induced inflammation in jejunal, suggesting that feed-back control between TGF-β4 and Smad7 may be crucial for E.coli infection at first stage of chicken and that anti-inflammatory effects were stronger than pro-inflammatory effects at the first 6hrs after E. coli infection. It was related to a decrease in the inflammatory response of the gut.

In conclusion, we demonstrated that TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway was involved in the response of E. coli infection of chicken. The expression of TGF-β4, Smad7 indicating that feed-back control between TGF-β4 and Smad7 may be crucial for E. coli induced jejunal inflammation at 6hrs after infection of chicken. Targeted enteral therapy with optimized concentrations of TGF-β4 or smad7 might be of interest for the treatment of inflammatory disorders in the intestine of chicken.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work was supported by the NSFC-Joint Research Fund of Henan (U1404323).

The authors would like to thank all the staff at the slaughterhouses for assisting in the sampling process. The authors are grateful to Lei Zhang, Xiao Hu, Shan Li and Yuanhong Xu for their help in sample analysis.

REFERENCES

  • Barnard JA, Beauchamp RD, Coffey RJ, Moses HL. Regulation of intestinal epithelial cell growth by transforming growth factor type beta. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 1989;86(5):1578-1582.
  • Boukhettala N, Ibrahim A, Claeyssens S, Faure M, Le Pessot F, Vuichoud J, et al., A diet containing whey protein, glutamine, and TGFβ modulates gut protein metabolism during chemotherapy-induced mucositis in rats. Digestive diseases and sciences 2010; 55(8): 2172-2181.
  • Derynck R, Feng X-H. TGF-β receptor signaling. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Reviews on Cancer 1997;1333(2): F105-F150.
  • Derynck R, Zhang YE. Smad-dependent and Smad-independent pathways in TGF-β family signalling. Nature 2003;425(6958): 577-584.
  • Franzen P, Dijke P ten, Ichijo H, Yamashita H, Schulz P, Heldin CH, et al., Cloning of a TGFβ type I receptor that forms a heteromeric complex with the TGFβ type II receptor. Cell1993;75(4):681-692.
  • Govinden R, Bhoola K D. Genealogy, expression, and cellular function of transforming growth factor-beta. Pharmacology & Therapeutics 2003; 98(2):257-265.
  • Hahm K, Im Y, Parks T, Park S, Markowitz S, Jung H, Green J, Kim S. Loss of transforming growth factor ? signaling in the intestine contributes to tissue injury in inflammatory bowel disease. Gut 2001;49(2):190-198.
  • Hayashi H, Abdollah S, Qiu Y, Cai J, Xu YY, Grinnell BW, et al., The MAD-related protein Smad7 associates with the TGFβ receptor and functions as an antagonist of TGFβ signaling. Cell 1997;89(7): 1165-1173.
  • Heldin CH, Miyazono K, Dijke, P ten. TGF-β signalling from cell membrane to nucleus through SMAD proteins. Nature 1997;390(6659):465.
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  • Livak KJ, Schmittgen TD. Analysis of relative gene expression data using real-time quantitative PCR and the 2- ΔΔCT method. Methods 2001;25(4): 402-408.
  • McDonald LC, Chen FJ, Lo HJ, Yin HC, Lu PL, Huang CH, Ho M. Emergence of Reduced Susceptibility and Resistance to Fluoroquinolones in Escherichia coliin Taiwan and Contributions of Distinct Selective Pressures. Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy 2001;45(11): 3084-3091.
  • Moniri R, Dastehgoli K. Fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli isolated from healthy broilers with previous exposure to fluoroquinolones: Is there a link? Microbial ecology in health and disease 2005;17(2):69-74.
  • Monteleone G, Kumberova A, Croft NM, McKenziem C, Steer HW, MacDonald TT. Blocking Smad7 restores TGF-β1 signaling in chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Investigation 2001;108(4):601-609.
  • Moustakas A, Souchelnytskyi S, Heldin C H. Smad regulation in TGF-β signal transduction. Journal of Cell Science 2001;114(24): 4359-4369.
  • Nakao A, Afrakhte M, Morn A, Nakayama T, Christian J L, Heuchel R, et al., Identification of Smad7, a TGFβ-inducible antagonist of TGF-β signalling. Nature 1997;389(6651): 631-635.
  • Planchon SM, Martins C, Guerrant RL, Roche JK. Regulation of intestinal epithelial barrier function by TGF-beta 1. Evidence for its role in abrogating the effect of a T cell cytokine. The Journal of Immunology 1994;153(12): 5730-5739.
  • Rivas A L, Fabricant J. Indications of immunodepression in chickens infected with various strains of Marek's disease virus[J]. Avian diseases 1988;32(1): 1-8.
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  • Shu Y, Liu Y, Li X, Xinxin L, Ling C, Xiaolong Y, et al., Aspirin-Triggered Resolvin D1 Inhibits TGF-β1-Induced EndMT through Increasing the Expression of Smad7 and Is Closely Related to Oxidative Stress. Biomolecules & Therapeutics 2016;24(2):132-139.
  • Springler A, Hessenberger S, Schatzmayr G, Mayer E. Early activation of MAPK p44/42 is partially involved in DON-induced disruption of the intestinal barrier function and tight junction network. Toxins 2016;8(9): 264.
  • Tohidi R, Idris I B, Panandam J M, Bejo M H. The effects of polymorphisms in IL-2, IFN-γ, TGF-β2, IgL, TLR-4, MD-2, and iNOS geneks on resistance to Salmonella Enteritidis in indigenous chickens. Avian pathology 2012; 41(6): 605-612.
  • Wrana JL, Attisano L, Wieser R, Ventura F, Massague J. Mechanism of activation of the TGF-β receptor. Nature 1994;370(6488): 341-346.
  • Yan X, Liu Z, Chen Y. Regulation of TGF-β signaling by Smad7. Acta biochimica et biophysica Sinica 2009;41(4): 263-272.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    05 June 2020
  • Date of issue
    2020

History

  • Received
    24 June 2019
  • Accepted
    23 Nov 2019
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