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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2004 Oct 1;42(2):173-80.

Patterns of cytokine induction by gram-positive and gram-negative probiotic bacteria.

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Human Nutrition and Health Research Group, Institute of Food, Nutrition and Human Health, Massey University, Riddet Building, Level 2, Palmerston North, New Zealand.


Bacteria used in commercial probiotic preparations are most commonly gram-positive lactic acid-producing species, although there are also some probiotic products which utilise gram-negative coliform bacteria. Characterising how the innate immune system responds to these bacteria in vitro may give an indication as to the likely immunomodulatory events that can be triggered following probiotic administration in vivo. Here, an established gram-positive probiotic (Lactobacillus casei Shirota) was compared against a novel gram-negative probiotic strain (Escherichia coli Nissle 1917) for its ability to induce cytokine production in a cell type representative of the innate immune system; in addition, responses were contrasted against those induced by an enteropathogenic coliform, E. coli 2282. We investigated the ability of these three bacterial strains to modulate production of interleukins-10, -12 and -18; tumour necrosis factor-alpha; interferon-alpha; and transforming growth factor-beta, via a series of in vitro culture experiments involving the murine monocyte/macrophage cell line J774A.1. All bacteria induced marked secretion of IL-12 and TNFalpha by cells, while only coliforms induced production of IL-10; there was minimal or no induction of IL-18 or TGFbeta. Activation of cells with recombinant gamma-interferon promoted increased production of IL-12, but decreased production of IL-10, in response to the co-culture of coliform bacteria, indicating differential cytokine induction depending on the activation status of the target cell. In general, live bacteria stimulated higher levels of IL-10, IL-12 and TNFalpha secretion than heat-killed preparations, while only live coliforms induced IFNalpha. These findings are discussed in relation to the likely immunomodulatory effects of gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria on the innate immune system in vivo, with particular emphasis on the marked similarity in cytokine response patterns observed between probiotic versus pathogenic coliform bacteria.

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