Estrogen receptors in human bladder cells regulate innate cytokine responses to differentially modulate uropathogenic E. coli colonization

Ayantika Sen, Anil Kaul, Rashmi Kaul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The bladder epithelial cells elicit robust innate immune responses against urinary tract infections (UTIs) for preventing the bacterial colonization. Physiological fluctuations in circulating estrogen levels in women increase the susceptibility to UTI pathogenesis, often resulting in adverse health outcomes. Dr adhesin bearing Escherichia coli (Dr E. coli) cause recurrent UTIs in menopausal women and acute pyelonephritis in pregnant women. Dr E. coli bind to epithelial cells via host innate immune receptor CD55, under hormonal influence. The role of estrogens or estrogen receptors (ERs) in regulating the innate immune responses in the bladder are poorly understood. In the current study, we investigated the role of ERα, ERβ and GPR30 in modulating the innate immune responses against Dr E. coli induced UTI using human bladder epithelial carcinoma 5637 cells (HBEC). Both ERα and ERβ agonist treatment in bladder cells induced a protection against Dr E. coli invasion via upregulation of TNFα and downregulation of CD55 and IL10, and these effects were reversed by action of ERα and ERβ antagoinsts. In contrast, the agonist-mediated activation of GPR30 led to an increased bacterial colonization due to suppression of innate immune factors in the bladder cells, and these effects were reversed by the antagonist-mediated suppression of GPR30. Further, siRNA-mediated ERα knockdown in the bladder cells reversed the protection against bacterial invasion observed in the ERα positive bladder cells, by modulating the gene expression of TNFα, CD55 and IL10, thus confirming the protective role of ERα. We demonstrate for the first time a protective role of nuclear ERs, ERα and ERβ but not of membrane ER, GPR30 against Dr E. coli invasion in HBEC 5637 cells. These findings have many clinical implications and suggest that ERs may serve as potential drug targets towards developing novel therapeutics for regulating local innate immunity and treating UTIs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152020
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Bladder epithelial cells
  • CD55
  • Dr E. coli
  • Estrogen receptors
  • IL10
  • TNFα
  • Urinary tract infections


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