The quorum sensing signal N-(3-oxododecanoyl)-l-homoserine lactone (3-oxo-C12 HSL), produced by Pseudomonas aeruginosa, exerts cytotoxic effects in macrophages in vitro, which is believed to affect host innate immunity in vivo. However, the medical significance of this finding to pulmonary disease remains unclear since the multicellular complexity of the lung was not considered in the assessment of macrophage responses to 3-oxo-C12 HSL. We developed a novel three-dimensional co-culture model of alveolar epithelium and macrophages using the rotating wall vessel (RWV) bioreactor, by adding undifferentiated monocytes to RWV-derived alveolar epithelium. Our three-dimensional model expressed important architectural/phenotypic hallmarks of the parental tissue, as evidenced by highly differentiated epithelium, spontaneous differentiation of monocytes to functional macrophage-like cells, localization of these cells on the alveolar surface and a macrophage-to-epithelial cell ratio relevant to the in vivo situation. Co-cultivation of macrophages with alveolar epithelium counteracted 3-oxo-C12 HSL-induced cytotoxicity via removal of quorum sensing molecules by alveolar cells. Furthermore, 3-oxo-C12 HSL induced the intercellular adhesion molecule ICAM-1 in both alveolar epithelium and macrophages. These data stress the importance of multicellular organotypic models to integrate the role of different cell types in overall lung homeostasis and disease development in response to external factors.
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