Gold Nanoparticles Modulate BCG-Induced Innate Immune Memory in Human Monocytes by Shifting the Memory Response towards Tolerance

Cells. 2020 Jan 23;9(2):284. doi: 10.3390/cells9020284.


Innate immune memory is characterized by a modulation in the magnitude with which innate immune cells such as monocytes and macrophages respond to potential dangers, subsequent to previous exposure to the same or unrelated agents. In this study, we have examined the capacity of gold nanoparticles (AuNP), which are already in use for therapeutic and diagnostic purposes, to modulate the innate memory induced by bacterial agents. The induction of innate memory was achieved in vitro by exposing human primary monocytes to bacterial agents (lipopolysaccharide -LPS-, or live Bacille Calmette-Guérin -BCG) in the absence or presence of AuNP. After the primary activation, cells were allowed to return to a resting condition, and eventually re-challenged with LPS. The induction of memory was assessed by comparing the response to the LPS challenge of unprimed cells with that of cells primed with bacterial agents and AuNP. The response to LPS was measured as the production of inflammatory (TNFα, IL-6) and anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10, IL-1Ra). While ineffective in directly inducing innate memory per se, and unable to influence LPS-induced tolerance memory, AuNP significantly affected the memory response of BCG-primed cells, by inhibiting the secondary response in terms of both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory factor production. The reprogramming of BCG-induced memory towards a tolerance type of reactivity may open promising perspectives for the use of AuNP in immunomodulatory approaches to autoimmune and chronic inflammatory diseases.

Keywords: BCG; anti-inflammatory cytokines; gold nanoparticles; inflammatory cytokines; innate immune memory; monocytes; potentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • BCG Vaccine / pharmacology*
  • Gold / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / drug effects*
  • Immunity, Innate / drug effects*
  • Immunologic Memory / drug effects*
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry*
  • Metal Nanoparticles / ultrastructure
  • Models, Biological
  • Monocytes / drug effects
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Monocytes / ultrastructure


  • BCG Vaccine
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Gold