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Metformin attenuates the effect of Staphylococcus aureus on airway tight junctions by increasing PKCζ-mediated phosphorylation of occludin

Lookup NU author(s): Dr James Garnett



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2018 The Authors. Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Airway epithelial tight junction (TJ) proteins form a resistive barrier to the external environment, however, during respiratory bacterial infection TJs become disrupted compromising barrier function. This promotes glucose flux/accumulation into the lumen which acts as a nutrient source for bacterial growth. Metformin used for the treatment of diabetes increases transepithelial resistance (TEER) and partially prevents the effect of bacteria but the mechanisms of action are unclear. We investigated the effect of metformin and Staphylococcus aureus on TJ proteins, zonula occludins (ZO)-1 and occludin in human airway epithelial cells (H441). We also explored the role of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and PKCζ in metformin-induced effects. Pretreatment with metformin prevented the S. aureus-induced changes in ZO-1 and occludin. Metformin also promoted increased abundance of full length over smaller cleaved occludin proteins. The nonspecific PKC inhibitor staurosporine reduced TEER but did not prevent the effect of metformin indicating that the pathway may involve atypical PKC isoforms. Investigation of TJ reassembly after calcium depletion showed that metformin increased TEER more rapidly and promoted the abundance and localization of occludin at the TJ. These effects were inhibited by the AMPK inhibitor, compound C and the PKCζ pseudosubstrate inhibitor (PSI). Metformin increased phosphorylation of occludin and acetyl-coA-carboxylase but only the former was prevented by PSI. This study demonstrates that metformin improves TJ barrier function by promoting the abundance and assembly of full length occludin at the TJ and that this process involves phosphorylation of the protein via an AMPK-PKCζ pathway.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Kalsi KK, Garnett JP, Patkee W, Weekes A, Dockrell ME, Baker EH, Baines DL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

Year: 2018

Volume: 23

Issue: 1

Pages: 317-327

Print publication date: 01/01/2019

Online publication date: 18/11/2018

Acceptance date: 29/08/2018

Date deposited: 05/12/2018

ISSN (print): 1582-1838

ISSN (electronic): 1582-4934

Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.


DOI: 10.1111/jcmm.13929


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