Cholera toxin (CT) has been shown to induce stem cell factor (SCF) production in mouse ligated intestinal loops. Further, SCF interaction(s) with its receptor (c-kit) was shown to be important for the intestinal tract secretory response after CT exposure. In this study, we have investigated whether SCF production is induced in the intestinal tract after exposure to Salmonella typhimurium and whether this production could be an important intestinal tract response to Salmonella infection. Using a mouse ligated intestinal loop model, increased levels of SCF mRNA were detected at 2-4 h post-Salmonella challenge. Intestinal fluid obtained from Salmonella-challenged loops contained high levels of SCF by ELISA. Human and murine intestinal epithelial cell lines were also shown to have increased levels of SCF mRNA after exposure to Salmonella. Inhibition of Salmonella invasion of epithelial cells was shown to be one potentially important role for SCF:c-kit interactions in host defense to Salmonella infection. Pretreatment of human or murine intestinal cell lines with SCF resulted in a cellular state that was resistant to Salmonella invasion. Finally, mice having mutations in the white spotting (W) locus, which encodes the SCF-receptor (c-kit), were significantly more susceptible to oral Salmonella challenge than their control littermates. Taken together, the above results suggest that an important intestinal tract response to Salmonella infection is an enhanced production of SCF and its subsequent interactions with c-kit.

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