Open Access Research article

Pseudomonas pyocyanin stimulates IL-8 expression through MAPK and NF-κB pathways in differentiated U937 cells

Wenshu Chai1*, Jia Zhang2, Yan Duan1, Dianzhu Pan1, Wei Liu1, Ying Li1, Xue Yan1 and Baiyi Chen3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Respiratory Diseases, the First Affiliated Hospital of Liaoning Medical University, Jinzhou, Liaoning, 121001, China

2 Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, Hebei 050000, China

3 Department of Infectious Diseases, the First Affiliated Hospital of China Medical University, Shenyang, Liaoning 110001, China

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BMC Microbiology 2014, 14:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2180-14-26

Published: 6 February 2014



Pyocyanin (PCN), an extracellular product of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and a blue redox active secondary metabolite, plays an important role in invasive pulmonary infection. However, the detailed inflammatory response triggered by PCN infection in inflammatory cells (particularly macrophages), if present, remains to be clarified. To investigate the effects of PCN on macrophages, the ability of PCN to induce inflammation reaction and the signaling pathway for IL-8 release in PCN-induced differentiated U937 cells were examined.


It was found that PCN increased IL-8 release and mRNA expression in Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) differentiated U937 cells in both a concentration- and time-dependent manner by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). P38 and ERK MAPKs were activated after 10 min of induction with PCN and their levels returned to baselines after 30 min by Western blotting. It was also found that within 10 min of PCN incubation, the level of p-I-κBα in the cytosol was increased, which returned to baseline level after 60 min. Meanwhile, the level of p-p65 was increased in the nuclear extract and cytosol, and maintained high in total cell lysates. The results were further confirmed by the observation that p38, ERK1/2 and NF-κB inhibitors inhibited PCN-induced NF-κB activation and attenuated PCN-induced IL-8 expression in U937 cells as a function of their concentrations. Moreover, it was shown that PCN induced oxidative stress in U937 cells and N-acetyl cysteine, an antioxidant, was able to inhibit PCN-induced IL-8 protein expression.


It is concluded that PCN induces IL-8 secretion and mRNA expression in PMA-differentiated U937 cells in a concentration- and time- dependent manner. Furthermore, p38 and ERK MAPKs and NF-κΒ signaling pathways may be involved in the expression of IL-8 in PCN-incubated PMA-differentiated U937 cells.

Pyocyanin; IL-8; U937 cell; p38; ERK; NF-κB