Background: The recognition of microbial molecular patterns via Toll-like receptors (TLRs) is critical for mucosal defenses.Methods: Using well-differentiated primary cultures of human airway epithelia, we investigated the effects of exposure of the cells to cytokines (TNF-α and IFN-γ) and dexamethasone (dex) on responsiveness to the TLR2/TLR1 ligand Pam3CSK4. Production of IL-8, CCL20, and airway surface liquid antimicrobial activity were used as endpoints.Results: Microarray expression profiling in human airway epithelia revealed that first response cytokines markedly induced TLR2 expression. Real-time PCR confirmed that cytokines (TNF-α and IFN-γ), dexamethasone (dex), or cytokines + dex increased TLR2 mRNA abundance. A synergistic increase was seen with cytokines + dex. To assess TLR2 function, epithelia pre-treated with cytokines ± dex were exposed to the TLR2/TLR1 ligand Pam3CSK4 for 24 hours. While cells pre-treated with cytokines alone exhibited significantly enhanced IL-8 and CCL20 secretion following Pam3CSK4, mean IL-8 and CCL20 release decreased in Pam3CSK4 stimulated cells following cytokines + dex pre-treatment. This marked increase in inflammatory gene expression seen after treatment with cytokines followed by the TLR2 ligand did not correlate well with NF-κB, Stat1, or p38 MAP kinase pathway activation. Cytokines also enhanced TLR2 agonist-induced beta-defensin 2 mRNA expression and increased the antimicrobial activity of airway surface liquid. Dex blocked these effects.Conclusion: While dex treatment enhanced TLR2 expression, co-administration of dex with cytokines inhibited airway epithelial cell responsiveness to TLR2/TLR1 ligand over cytokines alone. Enhanced functional TLR2 expression following exposure to TNF-α and IFN-γ may serve as a dynamic means to amplify epithelial innate immune responses during infectious or inflammatory pulmonary diseases.