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Concept: Lipopolysaccharide


It is now well established that major depression is accompanied and characterized by altered responses of the immune-inflammatory system. In this study we investigated the pro-inflammatory activation of monocytes isolated from depressed patients as a parameter not influenced by such confounds as the time of day, the nutritional and exercise status or the age and gender of patients. Monocytes from depressed patients and from healthy controls were isolated in vitro; after 24-h incubation under basal conditions, cells were exposed for 24-h to 100 ng/ml of endotoxin (bacterial lipopolysaccharide, LPS). We found that monocytes from drug-free depressed patients and controls release the same amounts of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) under basal conditions, whereas monocytes from patients are dramatically less reactive to LPS (8.62-fold increase vs previous 24 hrs) compared to healthy controls (123.3-fold increase vs previous 24 hrs). Such blunted prostanoid production was paralleled by a reduction in COX-2 gene expression, whereas other pro-inflammatory mediators, namely interleukin-1β (IL-1 β) and -6 (IL-6) showed a trend to increased gene expression. The above changes were not associated to increased levels of circulating glucocorticoids. After 8 months of antidepressive drug treatment, the increase in PGE2 production after the endotoxin challenge was partially restored, whereas the increase in IL-1 β and -6 levels observed at baseline was completely abolished. In conclusion, our findings show that the reactivity of monocytes from depressed patients might be considered as a marker of the immune-inflammatory disorders associated to depression, although the lack of paired healthy controls at follow-up does not allow to conclude that monocyte reactivity to endotoxin is also a marker of treatment outcome.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Bacteria, Lipopolysaccharide, Prostaglandin E2, Prostaglandin


The pathogenesis of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is not fully understood. In the present study, vimentin expression and secretion in NASH was investigated both in vitro and in vivo. The exposure of palmitate and lipopolysaccharide (LPS) to HepG2 cells enhanced caspase-3 activity and vimentin expression, respectively. The combined effects of both treatments on vimentin expression and caspase-3 activation appeared to be synergic. In contrast, blockade of caspase-3 activity by zVADfmk resulted in a significant reduction of cleaved vimentin and secreted vimentin into the culture supernatant. Similarly, lipid accumulation and inflammation occurred in mice fed a methionine-choline-deficient diet; thus, vimentin expression and serum cleaved vimentin levels were increased. However, vimentin was not significantly upregulated and no cleavage occurred in mice fed a high-fat diet. Conclusively, lipid accumulation in hepatocytes induces apoptosis through a caspase-3 dependent pathway, whereas LPS stimulates vimentin expression, leading to its cleavage and secretion. Increased vimentin fragment levels indicated the existence of substantial hepatocellular death via an apoptotic mechanism.

Concepts: Immune system, Cell, Death, Microbiology, Apoptosis, In vivo, Lipopolysaccharide, In vitro


In the past, we showed that large electrolytic lesions of the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) promoted hypothermia in cold-exposed restrained rats, but attenuated hypothermia in rats challenged with a high dose of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in a thermogradient apparatus. The goal of this study was to identify the thermoeffector mechanisms and DMH representation of the two phenomena and, hence, understand how the same lesion could produce two opposite effects on body temperature. We found that the permissive effect of large electrolytic DMH lesions on cold-induced hypothermia was due to suppressed thermogenesis. DMH-lesioned rats also could not develop fever autonomically: they did not increase thermogenesis in response to a low, pyrogenic dose of LPS (10 μg/kg, i.v.). In contrast, changes in thermogenesis were uninvolved in the attenuation of the hypothermic response to a high, shock-inducing dose of LPS (5,000 μg/kg, i.v.); this attenuation was due to a blockade of cold-seeking behavior. To compile DMH maps for the autonomic cold defense and for the cold-seeking response to LPS, we studied rats with small thermal lesions in different parts of the DMH. Cold thermogenesis had the highest representation in the dorsal hypothalamic area. Cold seeking was represented by a site at the ventral border of the dorsomedial nucleus. Because LPS causes both fever and hypothermia, we originally thought that the DMH contained a single thermoregulatory site that worked as a fever-hypothermia switch. Instead, we have found two separate sites: one that drives thermogenesis, and the other, previously unknown, that drives inflammation-associated cold seeking.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTCold-seeking behavior is a life-saving response that occurs in severe systemic inflammation. We studied this behavior in rats with lesions in the dorsomedial hypothalamus (DMH) challenged with a shock-inducing dose of bacterial endotoxin. We built functional maps of the DMH and found the strongest representation of cold-seeking behavior at the ventral border of the dorsomedial nucleus. We also built maps for cold-induced thermogenesis in unanesthetized rats and found the dorsal hypothalamic area to be its main representation site. Our work identifies the neural substrate of cold-seeking behavior in systemic inflammation and expands the functional topography of the DMH – a structure that modulates autonomic, endocrine, and behavioral responses and is a potential therapeutic target in anxiety and panic disorders.

Concepts: Inflammation, Hypothalamus, Lipopolysaccharide, Thermoregulation, Hyperthermia, Fever, Endotoxin, Shivering


Gastrointestinal (GI) ischemia during exercise is associated with luminal permeability and increased systemic lipopolysaccharides (LPS). This study aimed to assess the impact of a multistrain pro/prebiotic/antioxidant intervention on endotoxin unit levels and GI permeability in recreational athletes. Thirty healthy participants (25 males, 5 females) were randomly assigned either a multistrain pro/prebiotic/antioxidant (LAB⁴ANTI; 30 billion CFU·day(-1) containing 10 billion CFU·day(-1)Lactobacillus acidophilus CUL-60 (NCIMB 30157), 10 billion CFU·day(-1)Lactobacillus acidophillus CUL-21 (NCIMB 30156), 9.5 billion CFU·day(-1)Bifidobacterium bifidum CUL-20 (NCIMB 30172) and 0.5 billion CFU·day(-1)Bifidobacterium animalis subspecies lactis CUL-34 (NCIMB 30153)/55.8 mg·day(-1) fructooligosaccharides/ 400 mg·day(-1) α-lipoic acid, 600 mg·day(-1)N-acetyl-carnitine); matched pro/prebiotic (LAB⁴) or placebo (PL) for 12 weeks preceding a long-distance triathlon. Plasma endotoxin units (via Limulus amebocyte lysate chromogenic quantification) and GI permeability (via 5 h urinary lactulose (L): mannitol (M) recovery) were assessed at baseline, pre-race and six days post-race. Endotoxin unit levels were not significantly different between groups at baseline (LAB⁴ANTI: 8.20 ± 1.60 pg·mL(-1); LAB⁴: 8.92 ± 1.20 pg·mL(-1); PL: 9.72 ± 2.42 pg·mL(-1)). The use of a 12-week LAB⁴ANTI intervention significantly reduced endotoxin units both pre-race (4.37 ± 0.51 pg·mL(-1)) and six days post-race (5.18 ± 0.57 pg·mL(-1); p = 0.03, ηp² = 0.35), but only six days post-race with LAB⁴ (5.01 ± 0.28 pg·mL(-1); p = 0.01, ηp² = 0.43). In contrast, endotoxin units remained unchanged with PL. L:M significantly increased from 0.01 ± 0.01 at baseline to 0.06 ± 0.01 with PL only (p = 0.004, ηp² = 0.51). Mean race times (h:min:s) were not statistically different between groups despite faster times with both pro/prebiotoic groups (LAB⁴ANTI: 13:17:07 ± 0:34:48; LAB⁴: 12:47:13 ± 0:25:06; PL: 14:12:51 ± 0:29:54; p > 0.05). Combined multistrain pro/prebiotic use may reduce endotoxin unit levels, with LAB⁴ANTI potentially conferring an additive effect via combined GI modulation and antioxidant protection.

Concepts: Lipopolysaccharide, Endotoxin


Gram-negative bacterial infections are accompanied by inflammation and somatic or visceral pain. These symptoms are generally attributed to sensitization of nociceptors by inflammatory mediators released by immune cells. Nociceptor sensitization during inflammation occurs through activation of the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signalling pathway by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a toxic by-product of bacterial lysis. Here we show that LPS exerts fast, membrane delimited, excitatory actions via TRPA1, a transient receptor potential cation channel that is critical for transducing environmental irritant stimuli into nociceptor activity. Moreover, we find that pain and acute vascular reactions, including neurogenic inflammation (CGRP release) caused by LPS are primarily dependent on TRPA1 channel activation in nociceptive sensory neurons, and develop independently of TLR4 activation. The identification of TRPA1 as a molecular determinant of direct LPS effects on nociceptors offers new insights into the pathogenesis of pain and neurovascular responses during bacterial infections and opens novel avenues for their treatment.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Action potential, Lipopolysaccharide, Pain, Nociception, Nociceptor, Endotoxin


Lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is essential for most Gram-negative bacteria and has crucial roles in protection of the bacteria from harsh environments and toxic compounds, including antibiotics. Seven LPS transport proteins (that is, LptA-LptG) form a trans-envelope protein complex responsible for the transport of LPS from the inner membrane to the outer membrane, the mechanism for which is poorly understood. Here we report the first crystal structure of the unique integral membrane LPS translocon LptD-LptE complex. LptD forms a novel 26-stranded β-barrel, which is to our knowledge the largest β-barrel reported so far. LptE adopts a roll-like structure located inside the barrel of LptD to form an unprecedented two-protein ‘barrel and plug’ architecture. The structure, molecular dynamics simulations and functional assays suggest that the hydrophilic O-antigen and the core oligosaccharide of the LPS may pass through the barrel and the lipid A of the LPS may be inserted into the outer leaflet of the outer membrane through a lateral opening between strands β1 and β26 of LptD. These findings not only help us to understand important aspects of bacterial outer membrane biogenesis, but also have significant potential for the development of novel drugs against multi-drug resistant pathogenic bacteria.

Concepts: Protein, Bacteria, Microbiology, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Lipopolysaccharide, Lipid, Endotoxin


Previous work in our laboratory showed opioid agents inhibit cytokine expression in astrocytes. Recently, Watkins and colleagues hypothesized that opioid agonists activate toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) signalling, which leads to neuroinflammation. To test this hypothesis, we characterized LPS and opioid effects on TLR4 signalling in reporter cells.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Hormone, Toll-like receptor, Lipopolysaccharide, Experiment, TLR 4, Toll-like receptors, Null hypothesis


Exposure to excessive quantities of bacterial-derived lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is associated with injury to the lung and the liver. Macrophages are thought to play a key role in the pathogenic response to LPS by releasing proinflammatory/cytotoxic mediators. Macrophage responses to LPS are mediated in large part by toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). In the present studies we used C3H/HeJ mice, which possess a mutated nonfunctional TLR4, to examine its role in lung and liver macrophage responses to acute endotoxemia induced by LPS administration. Treatment of control C3H/HeOuJ mice with LPS (3mg/ml, i.p.) was associated with a significant increase in the number of macrophages in both the lung and the liver. This was most prominent after 48h, and was preceded by expression of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), suggesting that macrophage proliferation contributes to the response. In liver, but not lung macrophages, LPS administration resulted in a rapid (within 3h) increase in mRNA expression of Mn superoxide dismutase (SOD) and heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), key enzymes in antioxidant defense. In contrast, HO-1 protein expression decreased 3h after LPS administration in liver macrophages, while in lung macrophages it increased. mRNA expression of enzymes mediating the biosynthesis of eicosanoids, including cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and microsomal prostaglandin E synthase-1 (mPGES-1), but not 12/15-lipoxygenase (LOX), was upregulated in liver macrophages 3-24h after LPS, with no effect on lung macrophages. However, COX-2 protein expression increased in both cell types. Loss of functional TLR4 significantly blunted the effects of LPS. Thus, no major changes were observed after LPS administration in the number of lung and liver macrophages recovered from TLR4 mutant mice, or on expression of PCNA. Increases in HO-1, MnSOD, COX-2 and PGES-1 mRNA expression in liver macrophages were also reduced in these mice. Conversely, in lung macrophages, loss of functional TLR4 resulted in increased expression of COX-2 protein and 12/15-LOX mRNA. These results demonstrate distinct lung and liver macrophage responses to acute endotoxemia are mediated, in part, by functional TLR4.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Cell, Macrophage, Toll-like receptor, Superoxide dismutase, Lipopolysaccharide, TLR 4


A cell surface heterodimer Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4)/MD-2 senses lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a principal membrane component of Gram-negative bacteria. LPS binds to MD-2 and induces dimerization of TLR4/MD-2. Dimerized TLR4 activates downstream signaling. TLR4 polymorphism replacing Asp299 with Gly and Thr399 with Ile (D299G/T399I) causes LPS hyporesponsiveness, and is associated with a variety of infectious and noninfectious diseases. However, a molecular mechanism underlying the LPS hyporesponsiveness remains controversial. We here asked whether the TLR4 polymorphism influenced cell surface expression of TLR4/MD-2, ligand-dependent TLR4/MD-2 dimerization or TLR4/MD-2 responses to a weak agonist monophosphoryl lipid A (MPL). A newly established anti-TLR4 mAb detected D299G/T399I TLR4/MD-2 on Ba/F3 cells, whereas a previous anti-TLR4 mAb did will this fit on the line above?, suggesting that the D299G/T399I polymorphism caused a conformational change in TLR4. Hyporesponsiveness of D299G/T399I TLR4/MD-2 was much more apparent when cells were stimulated with MPL than with lipid A. MPL-dependent TLR4/MD-2 dimerization was impaired by the D299G/T399I polymorphism. The D299G/T399I polymorphism did not alter LPS-binding to soluble TLR4/MD-2, but impaired its dimerization. These results suggest that the D299G/T399I TLR4 polymorphism impairs TLR4/MD-2 responses by altering ligand-dependent dimerization.

Concepts: Immune system, Chromosome, Toll-like receptor, Receptor, Lipopolysaccharide, Lipid, TLR 4, Endotoxin


Introduction. Acute, high-dose exposure to endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in preterm fetal sheep can trigger periventricular white matter lesions (PVL), in association with severe hypotension/hypoxemia and significant mortality. Intriguingly, however, chronic or repeated exposure to LPS can induce tachyphylaxis. We therefore tested the hypothesis that progressive, acute on chronic fetal infection would be associated with white matter injury with little fetal mortality. Methods. Chronically instrumented preterm (0.7 gestational age) fetal sheep were exposed to a continuous low dose LPS infusion (100 ng over 24 h, followed by 250 ng/24 h for 96 h) or saline. Boluses of 1 μg LPS or saline were given at 48 h, 72 h and 96 h; sheep were killed at day 10. Results. 6 of 11 fetal sheep exposed to saline infusion + LPS boluses died 4-7 h after the first bolus. In contrast, there was no fetal mortality after saline infusions alone (n=9), low-dose LPS infusion + saline boluses (n=5) or low-dose LPS + LPS boluses (n=9). Low-dose LPS infusion + LPS boluses was associated with greater microglial induction than low-dose LPS + saline boluses, but a similar area of periventricular white matter inflammation. One fetus developed severe focal white matter necrosis after LPS infusion + boluses. Conclusions. The acute cardiovascular compromise associated with high-dose, acute exposure to LPS is markedly attenuated by previous low-dose infusions, with limited apparent exacerbation of periventricular white matter injury compared with low-dose infusion alone.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Fetus, Lipopolysaccharide, White matter, Gestational age, Periventricular leukomalacia, Perinatal mortality