Olfactory ensheathing cells are attracted to, and can endocytose, bacteria
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Olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) have been shown previously to express Toll-like receptors and to respond to bacteria by translocating nuclear factor-κB from the cytoplasm to the nucleus. In this study, we show that OECs extended significantly more pseudopodia when they were exposed to Escherichia coli than in the absence of bacteria (p=0.019). Co-immunoprecipitation showed that E. coli binding to OECs was mediated by Toll-like receptor 4. Lyso-Tracker, a fluorescent probe that accumulates selectively in lysosomes, and staining for type 1 lysosome-associated membrane proteins demonstrated that endocytosed FITC-conjugated E. coli were translocated to lysosomes. They appeared to be subsequently broken down, as shown by transmission electron microscopy. No obvious adherence to the membrane and less phagocytosis was observed when OECs were incubated with inert fluorescent microspheres. The ability of OECs to endocytose bacteria supports the notion that OECs play an innate immune function by protecting olfactory tissues from bacterial infection.