Glucan phosphate has been shown to enhance antimicrobial immunity in a variety of experimental models. However, the mechanisms by which glucans enhance resistance to infection remain largely unknown. Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) is a key regulator of both innate and acquired immunity. Suppression of IFN-γ production is a prominent feature of the altered immune response that follows major trauma or sepsis. The present studies were designed to determine the effect of glucan phosphate on IFN-γ expression in normal mice and endotoxin [lipopolysaccharide (LPS)]-tolerant mice. The model of LPS tolerance was used because it results in patterns of cytokine expression similar to those commonly observed following severe trauma or sepsis. Glucan treatment potentiated LPS-induced IFN-γ expression in control mice. The induction of LPS tolerance resulted in marked suppression of LPS-induced IFN-γ production. However, co-administration of glucan with LPS, during the tolerance induction phase, attenuated the LPS-tolerant response. Interleukin-12 (IL-12) and IL-18 are important mediators of LPS-induced IFN-γ production. LPS-induced IL-12 p40 mRNA expression was increased in the spleens of glucan-treated mice compared with controls. Induction of LPS tolerance caused marked suppression of IL-12 production, a response that was attenuated by glucan treatment. IL-18 was constitutively expressed in both control and LPS-tolerant mice, and LPS-induced serum levels of IL-18 were increased in mice treated with glucan. T cells isolated from glucan-treated mice exhibited increased IFN-γ expression in response to IL-12 and IL-18, as well as increased expression of the IL-12 and IL-18 receptors. The ability of glucan to potentiate IFN-γ expression in control mice provides a potential mechanism by which glucan enhances antimicrobial immunity. The ability of glucan to attenuate suppressed IFN-γ expression in LPS-tolerant mice denotes its potential benefit for the treatment of trauma and sepsis-induced immunosuppression.
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