Fluoride Action Network



  • Fluoride increases epithelial intestinal barrier permeability.
  • Fluoride induces the downregulation and redistribution of ZO-1.
  • Fluoride releases intracellular calcium ions to activate RhoA/ROCK pathway and MLCK.
  • RhoA/ROCK pathway and MLCK play essential roles in fluoride-triggered MLC2 phosphorylation and F-actin rearrangement.

Fluoride is a common contaminant of groundwater and agricultural commodity, which poses challenges to animal and human health. A wealth of research has demonstrated its detrimental effects on intestinal mucosal integrity; however, the underlying mechanisms remain obscure. This study aimed to investigate the role of the cytoskeleton in fluoride-induced barrier dysfunction. After sodium fluoride (NaF) treatment of the cultured Caco-2 cells, both cytotoxicity and cytomorphological changes (internal vacuoles or massive ablation) were observed. NaF lowered transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER) and enhanced paracellular permeation of fluorescein isothiocyanate dextran 4 (FD-4), indicating Caco-2 monolayers hyperpermeability. In the meantime, NaF treatment altered both the expression and distribution of the tight junction protein ZO-1. Fluoride exposure increased myosin light chain II (MLC2) phosphorylation and triggered actin filament (F-actin) remodeling. While inhibition of myosin II by Blebbistatin blocked NaF-induced barrier failure and ZO-1 discontinuity, the corresponding agonist Ionomycin had effects comparable to those of fluoride, suggesting that MLC2 serves as an effector. Given the mechanisms upstream of p-MLC2 regulation, further studies demonstrated that NaF activated RhoA/ROCK signaling pathway and myosin light chain kinase (MLCK), strikingly increasing the expression of both. Pharmacological inhibitors (Rhosin, Y-27632 and ML-7) reversed NaF-induced barrier breakdown and stress fiber formation. The role of intracellular calcium ions ([Ca2+]i) in NaF effects on Rho/ROCK pathway and MLCK was investigated. We found that NaF elevated [Ca2+]i, whereas chelator BAPTA-AM attenuated increased RhoA and MLCK expression as well as ZO-1 rupture, thus, restoring barrier function. Collectively, abovementioned results suggest that NaF induces barrier impairment via Ca2+-dependent RhoA/ROCK pathway and MLCK, which in turn triggers MLC2 phosphorylation and rearrangement of ZO-1 and F-actin. These results provide potential therapeutic targets for fluoride-induced intestinal injury.

*Original full-text article online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S014765132300444X