Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in the TLR5 gene have been associated with human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and animal models of this disease. We recently demonstrated a significant association between three non-synonymous SNPs in the canine TLR5 gene and IBD in German shepherd dogs (GSDs). However, so far, no direct link between these SNPs and a disturbance in TLR5 function was shown. In the present study, we determined the functional significance of the canine TLR5 SNPs by transfecting the identified risk-protective and risk-associated haplotype into human embryonic kidney cells (HEK) and assessed nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) activation and CXCL8 production after stimulation. In addition, a whole blood assay for TLR5 activation was developed using blood derived from carrier dogs of either haplotype. There was a significant increase in NF-kB activity when cells transfected with the risk-associated TLR5 haplotype were stimulated with flagellin compared to the cells expressing the risk-protective TLR5 haplotype. This difference in NFkB activation correlated with CXCL8 expression in the supernatant measured by ELISA. Furthermore, whole blood taken from carrier dogs of the risk-associated TLR5 haplotype produced significantly more TNF after stimulation with flagellin compared to that taken from carriers of the risk-protective haplotype. Thus, we show for the first time a direct functional impact of the canine IBD risk-associated TLR5 haplotype, which results in hyper-responsiveness to flagellin compared to the IBD risk-protective TLR5 haplotype. Our data potentially suggest that similarly to human IBD and experimental models, TLR5 may also play a role in canine IBD. Blocking the hyper-responsive receptor found in susceptible dogs with IBD may alleviate the inappropriate inflammation seen in this disease.
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