Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in neonatal intensive care units, however its pathogenesis is not completely understood. We have previously shown that platelet activating factor (PAF), bacteria and TLR4 are all important factors in the development of NEC. Given that Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are expressed at low levels in enterocytes of the mature gastrointestinal tract, but were shown to be aberrantly over-expressed in enterocytes in experimental NEC, we examined the regulation of TLR4 expression and signaling by PAF in intestinal epithelial cells using human and mouse in vitro cell lines, and the ex vivo rat intestinal loop model. In intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) lines, PAF stimulation yielded upregulation of both TLR4 mRNA and protein expression and led to increased IL-8 secretion following stimulation with LPS (in an otherwise LPS minimally responsive cell line). PAF stimulation resulted in increased human TLR4 promoter activation in a dose dependent manner. Western blotting and immunohistochemical analysis showed PAF induced STAT3 phosphorylation and nuclear translocation in IEC, and PAF-induced TLR4 expression was inhibited by STAT3 and NFkB Inhibitors. Our findings provide evidence for a mechanism by which PAF augments inflammation in the intestinal epithelium through abnormal TLR4 upregulation, thereby contributing to the intestinal injury of NEC. © 2010 Soliman et al.