Biological characterization of lipopolysaccharide from Treponema pectinovorum

L. Kesavalu, C. W. Falk, K. J. Davis, M. J. Steffen, X. Xu, S. C. Holt, J. L. Ebersole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This study investigated the endotoxic and biological properties of purified lipopolysaccharide (LPS) isolated from an oral spirochete, Treponema pectinovorum. Endotoxicity, measured by Limulus amoebocyte lysate kinetic assay, showed that the LPS contained 1.28 endotoxin units per μg of purified LPS, which was approximately 4,000 times less than Escherichia coli O55:B5 LPS. To determine in vivo endotoxicity, LPS responder mice were administered LPS following galactosamine (GAlN) sensitization. The LPS induced neither endotoxic symptoms nor lethality for 96 h, suggesting negligible or very low endotoxicity. In contrast, infection with live T. pectinovorum induced 100% lethality within 12 h in GalN-sensitized LPS responder mice, indicating an endotoxin-like property of this treponeme. Heat-killed microorganisms exhibited no lethality in GalN-sensitized mice, suggesting that the endotoxicity was associated with heat-labile components. To determine cytokine and chemokine induction by LPS, human gingival fibroblasts were stimulated and secretion of interleukin 1β (IL-1β), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, gamma interferon, IL-6, IL-8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) was assessed. The purified LPS induced significant amounts of only IL-6, IL-8, and MCP-1, although they were substantially lower than levels after challenge with live T. pectinovorum. After injection of LPS or live or heat-killed T. pectinovorum, serum was collected from mice and analyzed for proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), and IL-6. LPS induced only IL-6 consistently. Both live and heat-killed T. pectinovorum induced serum IL-6, which was higher than the level detected following LPS administration. Importantly, live bacteria elicited systemic TNF-α and IL-1β levels similar to those induced by a lethal dose of live E. coli O111. The results indicated that T. pectinovorum LPS has very low or no endotoxicity, although it can elicit low levels of cytokines from host cells. In contrast to the LPS, live T. pectinovorum demonstrated in vivo toxicity, which was associated with serum IL-1β, TNF-α, and IL-6, suggesting an endotoxin-like property of a heat-labile molecule(s) of the spirochete.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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