The innate immune response is mediated in part by pattern recognition receptors including Toll-like receptors (TLRs). The pleural mesothelial cells (PMCs) that line the pleural surface are in direct contact with pleural fluid and accordingly carry the risk of exposure to infiltrating microorganisms or their components in an event of a complicated parapneumonic effusion. Here we show that murine primary PMCs constitutively express TLR-1 through TLR-9 and, upon activation with peptidoglycan (PGN), mouse PMC produce antimicrobial peptide β-defensin-2 (mBD-2). Treatment of PMCs with staphylococcal PGN, a gram-positive bacterial cell wall component and a TLR-2 agonist, resulted in a significant increase in TLR-2 and mBD-2 expression. Silencing of TLR-2 expression by small interfering RNA led to the downregulation of PGN-induced mBD-2 expression, thereby establishing causal relationship between the activation of TLR-2 receptor and mBD-2 production. PMCs exposed to PGN showed increased p38 MAPK activity. In addition, PGN-induced mBD-2 expression was attenuated by SB203580, a p38 MAPK inhibitor, underlining the importance of p38 MAPK in mBD-2 induction. Inhibition of erk1/erk2 or phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase did not block PGN-induced mBD-2 expression in PMC. PGN-activated PMC-derived mBD-2 significantly killed Staphylococcus aureus, and mBD-2-neutralizing antibodies blunted this antimicrobial activity. Taken together, these data indicate that PMCs may contribute to host innate immune defense upon exposure to gram-positive bacteria or their products within the pleural space by upregulating TLR-2 and mBD-2 expression. Copyright © 2008 the American Physiological Society.