Targeting bacterial endotoxin: two sides of a coin

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2007 Jan;1096:1-17. doi: 10.1196/annals.1397.064.


The term sepsis describes a potentially lethal clinical condition that develops as a result of a dysregulated host response to bacterial infection. The most common bacterial component implicated in initiating the septic syndrome is a cell wall molecule derived from Gram-negative bacteria, known as lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or endotoxin. Like all mammals, humans are equipped with an LPS-sensing machinery consisting, primarily, of LPS-binding protein (LBP), CD14, a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored monocyte differentiation antigen, and toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), a signal-transducing integral membrane protein. Modest stimulation of TLR4 facilitates the elimination of invading microorganisms. Potent TLR4 stimulation, however, produces severe reactions in the host, often leading to multiple organ failure and death. The search for pharmaceuticals that reduce mortality in septic patients has been a painstaking process. Thus far, only a few compounds have been found to significantly reduce mortality rates. Perhaps one of the more promising therapeutic strategies currently pursued is based on the identification of synthetic or naturally occurring substances that neutralize LPS or inhibit LPS-mediated activation of host immune cells, such as monocytes and macrophages. Here, we describe a number of diverse molecular structures with a capacity to either enhance or blunt LPS-induced monocyte activation. The underlying molecular mechanisms are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Endotoxins / metabolism*
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infections / pathology*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / metabolism*
  • Models, Chemical
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Monocytes / metabolism*
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Sepsis / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Endotoxins
  • Lipids
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Peptides
  • TLR4 protein, human
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4