Chitohexaose activates macrophages by alternate pathway through TLR4 and blocks endotoxemia

PLoS Pathog. 2012;8(5):e1002717. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1002717. Epub 2012 May 24.


Sepsis is a consequence of systemic bacterial infections leading to hyper activation of immune cells by bacterial products resulting in enhanced release of mediators of inflammation. Endotoxin (LPS) is a major component of the outer membrane of Gram negative bacteria and a critical factor in pathogenesis of sepsis. Development of antagonists that inhibit the storm of inflammatory molecules by blocking Toll like receptors (TLR) has been the main stay of research efforts. We report here that a filarial glycoprotein binds to murine macrophages and human monocytes through TLR4 and activates them through alternate pathway and in the process inhibits LPS mediated classical activation which leads to inflammation associated with endotoxemia. The active component of the nematode glycoprotein mediating alternate activation of macrophages was found to be a carbohydrate residue, Chitohexaose. Murine macrophages and human monocytes up regulated Arginase-1 and released high levels of IL-10 when incubated with chitohexaose. Macrophages of C3H/HeJ mice (non-responsive to LPS) failed to get activated by chitohexaose suggesting that a functional TLR4 is critical for alternate activation of macrophages also. Chitohexaose inhibited LPS induced production of inflammatory molecules TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6 by macropahges in vitro and in vivo in mice. Intraperitoneal injection of chitohexaose completely protected mice against endotoxemia when challenged with a lethal dose of LPS. Furthermore, Chitohexaose was found to reverse LPS induced endotoxemia in mice even 6/24/48 hrs after its onset. Monocytes of subjects with active filarial infection displayed characteristic alternate activation markers and were refractory to LPS mediated inflammatory activation suggesting an interesting possibility of subjects with filarial infections being less prone to develop of endotoxemia. These observations that innate activation of alternate pathway of macrophages by chtx through TLR4 has offered novel opportunities to cell biologists to study two mutually exclusive activation pathways of macrophages being mediated through a single receptor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginase / biosynthesis
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endotoxemia / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / immunology
  • Interleukin-10 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1beta / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / immunology
  • Macrophage Activation*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Oligosaccharides / immunology*
  • Oligosaccharides / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / metabolism*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-6
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Tlr4 protein, mouse
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • chitohexaose
  • Arg1 protein, mouse
  • Arginase