European black elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) is a popular way to treat common colds or influenza infections. Mechanistically, this might be due to a direct antiviral effect or a stimulatory effect on the immune system of the host. Here, we evaluated the modulatory effects of black elderberry derived water extract (EC15) and its polysaccharide enriched fractions (CPS, BOUND, and UNBOUND) in comparison to a conventional alcoholic extract (EE25), regarding the phenotypical and functional properties of dendritic cells (DCs), which are essential cells to induce potent T cell responses. Interestingly, the water extract and its polysaccharide fractions potently induced DC maturation, while the ethanol extract did not. Moreover, the capacity to stimulate T cells by these matured DCs, as assessed using MLR assays, was statistically higher when induced by the water extracted fractions, compared to immature DCs. On the other hand, the ethanol extract EE25 did not induce T cell stimulation. Finally, the cytokine expression profiles of these DC-T cell cocultures were assessed and correlated well with increased T cell stimulation. Also, the expression of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6, TNF-α, and IFN-γ was highly increased in the presence of the elderberry water extract EC15, and the polysaccharide enriched CPS, BOUND, and UNBOUND fractions, but not by EE25. Thus, from these data, we conclude that the polysaccharides present in water-derived elderberry fractions induce potent immune-modulatory effects, which represents the basis for a strong immune-mediated response to viruses including influenza.
Keywords: European black elderberry; T cell stimulation; dendritic cells; polysaccharides.