The beta-glucans derived from yeast cell walls have been reported for having many immunomodulatory activities in vivo and in vitro. In this study, Aureobasidium-derived soluble branched (1,3-1,6) beta-glucan (Sophy beta-glucan) was checked for natural killer (NK) activity and for the production of IFN-gamma and IL-4 in Leishmania amazonensis infection. The main experiment was performed with a group of female C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice, orally supplemented with 5% of Sophy beta-glucan and infected with promastogotes of L. amazonensis (1 x 10(7)) into the footpad. Increase in the footpad thickness with time was observed in BALB/c mice in spite of the oral Sophy beta-glucan supplement, but it was less in C57BL/6 mice. The difference in overall mean footpad thickness between 'infection only' versus 'infection + glucan' groups was statistically significant (P < 0.001). High NK activity in C57BL/6 than BALB/c mice was observed in 'glucan only' group compared to the control group and also in 'infection + glucan' group compared to 'infection only' group. The difference in the NK activity among these groups was significant (P < 0.05). The IFN-gamma level increased at weeks 7 and 8 post-infection in C57BL/6 mice and was significantly high in 'infection + glucan' group compared to the 'infection only' group (P < 0.05). IL-4 levels did not increase up to detectable levels throughout the study. The results led a conclusion that Sophy beta-glucan enhances NK activity and cellular immunity in L. amazonensis-infected mice.
Keywords: IFN-γ; Leishmania amazonensis; NK activity; Sophy β-glucan.