Design: We investigated the functional involvement of caspase-8 signalling in microbial-induced intestinal cell shedding by injecting Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to mimic bacterial pathogens and poly(I:C) as a probe for RNA viruses in vivo.
Results: TLR stimulation of IEC was associated with a rapid activation of caspase-8 and increased epithelial cell shedding. In mice with an epithelial cell-specific deletion of caspase-8 TLR stimulation caused Rip3-dependent epithelial necroptosis instead of apoptosis. Mortality and tissue damage were more severe in mice in which IECs died by necroptosis than apoptosis. Inhibition of receptor-interacting protein (Rip) kinases rescued the epithelium from TLR-induced gut damage. TLR3-induced necroptosis was directly mediated via TRIF-dependent pathways, independent of Tnf-α and type III interferons, whereas TLR4-induced tissue damage was critically dependent on Tnf-α.
Conclusions: Together, our data demonstrate an essential role for caspase-8 in maintaining the gut barrier in response to mucosal pathogens by permitting inflammatory shedding and preventing necroptosis of infected cells. These data suggest that therapeutic strategies targeting the cell death machinery represent a promising new option for the treatment of inflammatory and infective enteropathies.