Cathepsin L is a cysteine protease of the papain family. Lung epithelial cells play an important role in host defence. The aim of the present study was to investigate the functional role of cathepsin L in the human lung carcinoma cell line A549. Cathepsin Ldeficient A549 clones were generated. They showed a significant lower proliferation and secreted 5- to 8-fold more IL-8 than the control cells. The production of IL 6, IL-18, and TGFβ1/2 was not affected significantly. It was shown that the cells upregulate IL-8 transcription and that IL-8 in the culture supernatant is necessary for the containment of cellular proliferation. In conclusion, the data show that suppression of cathepsin L expression in A549 cells leads to a growth inhibition which is partially compensated by an upregulation of IL-8 production.
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