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J Leukoc Biol. 2005 Jul;78(1):62-9. Epub 2005 Apr 4.

Local and systemic activity of the polysaccharide chitosan at lymphoid tissues after oral administration.

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Immunología, CIBICI (CONICET), Departamento de Bioquímica Clínica, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Haya de la Torre y Medina Allende, Argentina.


Chitosan is a cationic polysaccharide derived from the partial deacetylation of chitin, which exhibits particular properties: interacts with negatively charged sites on the cell surface; changes the permeability of intestinal epithelium, enhancing the uptake of peptides and proteins; and activates leukocytes. Antigens coadministered or encapsulated with the polysaccharide show improved mucosal and systemic humoral immune responses, although the mechanism is poorly understood. Herein, we characterized in Peyer's patches mesenteric lymph nodes and spleen molecular events triggered after oral administration of chitosan in the absence of protein antigen. Sixteen hours after feeding, we studied the uptake and distribution of the polysaccharide, the phenotype of recruited antigen-presenting cells (APC), the induction of cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin (IL)-12, IL-4, IL-10, and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), and the activation of T lymphocytes. We show here that the uptake of chitosan at inductive mucosal sites involves CD11b/c+ APC and that chitosan feeding increases the percentage of OX62+ dendritic cells, which up-regulate the major histocompatibility complex class II antigens without changing the expression of costimulatory CD80 or CD86 molecules. The polysaccharide elicits the release of IL-10 as well as the expression of IL-4 and TGF-beta in mucosa, and in spleen, the activation of CD3+ T cells occurs. Our results demonstrate that chitosan acts by enhancing the T helper cell type 2 (Th2)/Th3 microenvironment in the mucosa. A single dose of this polysaccharide exhibits local and systemic effects, and its activity could be relevant in the maintenance of the intestinal homeostasis.

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