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Microb Pathog. 2009 Aug;47(2):68-77. doi: 10.1016/j.micpath.2009.04.015. Epub 2009 May 19.

The structurally similar, penta-acylated lipopolysaccharides of Porphyromonas gingivalis and Bacteroides elicit strikingly different innate immune responses.

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Department of Microbiology, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Lipid A structural modifications can substantially impact the host's inflammatory response to bacterial LPS. Bacteroides fragilis, an opportunistic pathogen associated with life-threatening sepsis and intra-abdominal abscess formation, and Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron, a symbiont pivotal for proper host intestinal tissue development, both produce an immunostimulatory LPS comprised of penta-acylated lipid A. Under defined conditions, Porphyromonas gingivalis, an oral pathogen associated with periodontitis, also produces an LPS bearing a penta-acylated lipid A. However, this LPS preparation is 100-1000 times less potent than Bacteroides LPS in stimulating endothelial cells. We analyzed Bacteroides and P. gingivalis lipid A structures using MALDI-TOF MS and gas chromatography to determine the structural basis for this phenomenon. Even though both Bacteroides and P. gingivalis lipid A molecules are penta-acylated and mono-phosphorylated, subtle differences in mass and fatty acid content could account for the observed difference in LPS potency. This fatty acid heterogeneity is also responsible for the peak "clusters" observed in the mass spectra and obfuscates the correlation between LPS structure and immunostimulatory ability. Further, we show the difference in potency between Bacteroides and P. gingivalis LPS is TLR4-dependent. Altogether, the data suggest subtle changes in lipid A structure may profoundly impact the host's innate immune response.

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