Chitin microparticles for the control of intestinal inflammation

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2012 Sep;18(9):1698-710. doi: 10.1002/ibd.22874. Epub 2012 Jan 12.


Background: Chitin is a polymer of N-acetylglucosamine with the ability to regulate innate and adaptive immune responses. However, the detailed mechanisms of chitin-mediated regulation of intestinal inflammation are only partially known.

Methods: In this study chitin microparticles (CMPs) or phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) were orally administered to acute and chronic colitis models every 3 days for 6 consecutive weeks beginning at weaning age. The effects of this treatment were evaluated by histology, cytokine production, coculture study, and enteric bacterial analysis in dextran sodium sulfate (DSS)-induced colitis or T-cell receptor alpha (TCRα) knockout chronic colitis models.

Results: Histologically, chitin-treated mice showed significantly suppressed colitis as compared with PBS-treated mice in both animal models. The production of interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) was upregulated in the mucosa of chitin-treated mice compared with control mice. The major source of IFN-γ-producing cells was CD4+ T cells. In mouse dendritic cells (DCs) we found that CMPs were efficiently internalized and processed within 48 hours. Mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs) CD4+ T cells isolated from chitin-treated mice produced a 7-fold higher amount of IFN-γ in the culture supernatant after being cocultured with DCs and chitin as compared with the control. Proliferation of carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester (CFSE)(low) CD4+ T cells in MLNs and enteric bacterial translocation rates were significantly reduced in chitin-treated mice when compared with the control. In addition, CMPs improved the imbalance of enteric bacterial compositions and significantly increased interleukin (IL)-10-producing cells in noninflamed colon, indicating the immunoregulatory effects of CMPs in intestinal mucosa.

Conclusions: CMPs significantly suppress the development of inflammation by modulating cytokine balance and microbial environment in colon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles*
  • Chitin / therapeutic use*
  • Colitis / etiology*
  • Colitis / prevention & control*
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology
  • Dextran Sulfate / toxicity
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Genes, T-Cell Receptor alpha / physiology
  • Inflammation / prevention & control*
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Intestines / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Cytokines
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Chitin
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Dextran Sulfate