2010 Volume 86 Issue 4 Pages 322-337
Chemistry-based investigation is reviewed which led to identification of the active entities responsible for the immunostimulating potencies of peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharide. Though these glycoconjugates which ubiquitously occur in wide range of bacteria as the essential components of their cell envelopes have long been known to enhance the immunological responses of higher animals, neither the precise chemical structures required nor the mechanism of their action remained to be elucidated until early 1970s. Chemical synthesis of partial structures of peptidoglycan proved N-acetylmuramyl-L-alanyl-D-isoglutamine to be the minimum structure responsible for the activity and led to later identification of its receptor protein Nod2 present in animal cells. Another active partial structure of peptidoglycan, γ-D-glutamyl-meso-diaminopimelic acid, and its receptor Nod1 were also identified as well. With regard to lipopolysaccharide, its glycolipid part named lipid A was purified and the structure studied. Chemically synthesized lipid A according to the newly elucidated structure exhibited full activity described for lipopolysaccharide known as endotoxin. Synthetic homogeneous lipid A and its structural analogues and labeled derivatives enabled precise studies of their interaction with receptor proteins and the mechanism of their action. Chemical synthesis of homogeneous partial structures of peptidoglycan and lipopolysaccharide gave unequivocal evidences for the concept that definite small molecular parts of these complex macromolecular bacterial glycoconjugates are specifically recognized by their respective receptors and trigger our defense system now widely recognized as innate immunity.
(Communicated by Satoshi OMURA, M.J.A.)