Secretory leucoprotease inhibitor (SLPI) is a neutrophil serine protease inhibitor constitutively expressed at many mucosal surfaces, including that of the lung. Originally identified as a serine protease inhibitor, it is now evident that SLPI also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory functions, and therefore plays an important role in host defense. Previous work has shown that some host defense proteins such as SLPI and elafin are susceptible to proteolytic degradation. Consequently, we investigated the status of SLPI in the cystic fibrosis (CF) lung. A major factor that contributes to the high mortality rate among CF patients is Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. In this study, we report that P. aeruginosa-positive CF bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, which contains lower SLPI levels and higher neutrophil elastase (NE) activity compared with P. aeruginosa-negative samples, was particularly effective at cleaving recombinant human SLPI. Additionally, we found that only NE inhibitors were able to prevent SLPI cleavage, thereby implicating NE in this process. NE in excess was found to cleave recombinant SLPI at two novel sites in the NH(2)-terminal region and abrogate its ability to bind LPS and NF-kappaB consensus binding sites but not its ability to inhibit activity of the serine protease cathepsin G. In conclusion, this study provides evidence that SLPI is cleaved and inactivated by NE present in P. aeruginosa-positive CF lung secretions and that P. aeruginosa infection contributes to inactivation of the host defense screen in the CF lung.
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