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J Immunol. 1996 Oct 1;157(7):3139-45.

Zinc enhances lipopolysaccharide-induced monokine secretion by alteration of fluidity state of lipopolysaccharide.

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  • 1Institute of Immunology and Transfusion Medicine, University of L├╝beck School of Medicine, Germany.


Elevated zinc serum concentrations have been shown to restore impaired immune response. Therefore, pharmacologic zinc supplementation has been used to improve immune function, particularly in intensive care patients. In these patients, Gramnegative sepsis, the symptoms of which are predominantly caused by LPS-induced release of monokines, represents a serious problem. We have recently shown that zinc enhances induction of TNF-alpha and IL-1 beta in cultures of PBMC by LPS. By fluorescence polarization and infrared spectroscopic measurements we found that zinc addition leads to decreased fluidity of the hydrocarbon chains of LPS. Experiments at different temperatures showed that the less fluid gel (beta) phase of LPS is more effective in cytokine induction than the more fluid liquid-crystalline (alpha) phase. Our studies suggest that the synergistic effect of zinc on monokine induction by LPS is caused by direct interaction of zinc with LPS altering the fluidity of the hydrocarbon chains. Although this effect is zinc specific, other divalent ions, like cobalt and nickel, with a complex structure and size comparable to those of zinc also enhance LPS-induced monokine secretion but to a much lesser extent. Our data indicate that the zinc level represents a relevant clinical parameter in the treatment of Gram-negative infection. This reveals potential risks in the therapeutic application of zinc.

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