Migration of polymorphonuclear leukocytes across epithelia is a hallmark of many inflammatory disease states. Neutrophils traverse epithelia by migrating through the paracellular space and crossing intercellular tight junctions. We have previously shown (Nash, S., J. Stafford, and J.L. Madara. 1987. J. Clin. Invest. 80:1104-1113), that leukocyte migration across T84 monolayers, a model human intestinal epithelium, results in enhanced tight junction permeability--an effect quantitated by the use of a simple, standard electrical assay of transepithelial resistance. Here we show that detailed time course studies of the transmigration-elicited decline in resistance has two components, one of which is unrelated to junctional permeability. The initial decrease in resistance, maximal 5-13 min after initiation of transmigration, occurs despite inhibition of transmigration by an antibody to the common beta subunit of neutrophil beta 2 integrins, and is paralleled by an increase in transepithelial short-circuit current. Chloride ion substitution and inhibitor studies indicate that the early-phase resistance decline is not attributable to an increase in tight junction permeability but is due to decreased resistance across epithelial cells resulting from chloride secretion. Since T84 cells are accepted models for studies of the regulation of Cl- and water secretion, our results suggest that neutrophil transmigration across mucosal surfaces (for example, respiratory and intestinal tracts) may initially activate flushing of the surface by salt and water. Equally important, these studies, by providing a concrete example of sequential transcellular and paracellular effects on transepithelial resistance, highlight the fact that this widely used assay cannot simply be viewed as a direct functional probe of tight junction permeability.

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