In the first paper we show that reducing the average molecular weight from ~350 kDa to <6kDa by acid hydrolysis diminished the cell-stimulating activity of poly-M, measured as TNFproduction from human monocytes. However, the activity of the resulting oligomers (M-blocks) was greatly enhanced when covalently attached to particles (plastic beads or biodegradable albumin particles). Similar results were obtained with detoxified/deacylated LPS (DLPS) and glucuronic acid polymers (C6OXY), but not with G-blocks that by themselves are not active. These results suggest that the supramolecular structure affects the potency of polysaccharide stimuli, and that M-blocks attached to biodegradable albumin particles could possibly be exploited as an immunostimulant for protection against various diseases.
In paper 2, according to the reviewers suggestion, the designation M-polymers of different molecular size was used in place of poly-M (~350 kDa) and M-blocks (~3 kDa). In this study we demonstrated that M-blocks and DLPS attached to particles engaged different receptors than soluble poly-M and DLPS in activation of monocytes. By using blocking mAbs to CD14, CD11b and CD18, we found that particulate stimuli employed the β2- integrin CD11b/CD18 in addition to the shared CD14 for signaling TNF-production. Moreover, whereas poly-M only bound to CD14-expressing CHO-cells, M-particles preferentially bound to CHO-cells expressing β2-integrins. However, the DLPS- and M-particles failed to activate NF-κB-translocation in CHO-cells co-transfected with CD14 and β2-integrins, suggesting that additional molecules are required for activation of CHO-cells. The major conclusion drawn from this work is that the supramolecular structure, in addition to influence the potency, affects the cellular receptor engagement by carbohydrates like poly-M and DLPS. This points to the importance of comparing the mechanisms involved in activation of immune cells by soluble bacterial components and whole bacteria to achieve a better understanding of inflammatory diseases like sepsis.
Poly-M activates cells in a CD14-dependent manner, but CD14 is linked to the membrane with a GPI-anchor and mediates activation by interaction with other, signal-transducing molecules, like the TLRs. By using blocking mAbs to TLR2 (generated in our lab, paper 5) and TLR4, we found that both receptors were involved in mediating TNF-production from human monocytes in response to poly-M. Furthermore, TLR4 mutant (C3H/HeJ) and knockout (TLR4-/-) murine macrophages were completely non-responsive to poly-M, whereas TLR2-deficient macrophages showed reduced TNF-responses. These findings indicate that CD14, TLR2 and TLR4 on primary cells all participate in cytokine-induction by poly-M, and that TLR4 may be necessary for activation.
In addition to CD14, β2-integrins have been implicated in LPS-induced cellular activation, and in this study we compared the involvement of CD14 and β2-integrins in TNF-production and NF-κB-activation induced by LPS and GBS cell wall fragments. With blocking mAbs to CD14 and CD18 we found that LPS and GBS cell walls shared CD14, but in addition the cell walls employed CD11/CD18 in mediating TNF-production from human monocytes. Both stimuli specifically induced NF-κB-translocation in CD14-transfected CHO-cells, but only LPS could activate cells transfected with CD11/CD18. The lack of response to GBS cell walls in CD11/CD18-transfected CHO-cells indicated that the cell walls need CD14 for cell activation. Further in paper 4 we demonstrate the ability of GBS cell walls to activate LPS-hyporesponsiv C3H/HeJ mouse macrophages, suggesting that LPS and GBS cell walls employ different receptors/signaling mechanisms in murine macrophages.
When it was discovered that human TLR2 and TLR4 are involved in microbial recognition, we started to generate a mouse mAb to human TLR2, and in paper 5 we report the production and characterization of the mAb TL2.1. We subsequently used this mAb to evaluate the role of TLR2 in mediating activation by heat-killed GBS and L monocytogenes. L. monocytogenes, but not GBS, activated TLR2-transfected CHO-cells to IL-6-production, and the response was inhibited by TL2.1. A CD14 mAb and TL2.1 both inhibited TNF-production from monocytes induced by L. monocytogenes, but neither mAb affected the TNF-response triggered by GBS. Our results suggest that CD14 and TLR2 are engaged in cell activation by L. monocytogenes, but that neither receptor seem to be involved in activation by GBS. This study was the first to show that human TLR2 can discriminate between two G+ bacteria.
In paper 6 we report the generation of a new TLR2 mAb, TL2.3, that stained with the same specificity as TL2.1 (anti-TLR2, paper 5). We used these mAbs to investigate the expression of TLR2 protein in human cells. We found that TLR2 was highly expressed in blood monocytes, less in granulocytes, and not present in lymphocytes. The protein level was measured on quiescent and activated cells by extra- and intracellular flow cytometry, and by immunoprecipitation of TLR2 from metabolic S35-labeled cells. Surprisingly, TLR2 protein was detected in activated B-cells located in lymphoid germinal centers, indicating that subsets of lymphocytes may express TLR2. We further show that TLR2 protein was differentially regulated on monocytes and granulocytes after exposure to LPS, pro- or anti-inflammatory cytokines. However, we could not correlate the regulation of TLR2 to cellular responses, as for instance the three anti-inflammatory cytokines TGFβ, IL-4 and IL-10 all inhibited lipopeptideinduced TNF-production, but either did not affect, reduced, or increased the level of surface TLR2, respectively. Thus, the biological significance of TLR2-regulation remains to be found.