Lipopolysaccharide associated with ß-2,6 fructan mediates TLR4-dependent immunomodulatory activity in vitro.

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Levan, a ß-2,6 fructofuranose polymer produced by microbial species, has been reported for its immunomodulatory properties via interaction with toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) which recognises lipopolysaccharide (LPS). However, the molecular mechanisms underlying these interactions remain elusive. Here, we investigated the immunomodulatory properties of levan using thoroughly-purified and characterised samples from Erwinia herbicola and other sources. E. herbicola levan was purified by gel-permeation chromatography and LPS was removed from the levan following a novel alkali treatment developed in this study. E. herbicola levan was then characterised by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and NMR. We found that levan containing LPS, but not LPS-depleted levan, induced TLR4-mediated cytokine production by bone marrow-derived dendritic cells and/or activated TLR4 reporter cells. These data indicated that the immunomodulatory properties of the levan toward TLR4-expressing immune cells were mediated by the LPS. This work also demonstrates the importance of LPS removal when assessing the immunomodulatory activity of polysaccharides.