Fungal Chitin Dampens Inflammation through IL-10 Induction Mediated by NOD2 and TLR9 Activation

Jeanette Wagener, R K Subbarao Malireddi, Megan D Lenardon, Martin Köberle, Simon Vautier, Donna M MacCallum, Tilo Biedermann, Martin Schaller, Mihai G Netea, Thirumala-Devi Kanneganti, Gordon D Brown, Alistair J P Brown, Neil A R Gow* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

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Chitin is an essential structural polysaccharide of fungal pathogens and parasites, but its role in human immune responses remains largely unknown. It is the second most abundant polysaccharide in nature after cellulose and its derivatives today are widely used for medical and industrial purposes. We analysed the immunological properties of purified chitin particles derived from the opportunistic human fungal pathogen Candida albicans, which led to the selective secretion of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. We identified NOD2, TLR9 and the mannose receptor as essential fungal chitin-recognition receptors for the induction of this response. Chitin reduced LPS-induced inflammation in vivo and may therefore contribute to the resolution of the immune response once the pathogen has been defeated. Fungal chitin also induced eosinophilia in vivo, underpinning its ability to induce asthma. Polymorphisms in the identified chitin receptors, NOD2 and TLR9, predispose individuals to inflammatory conditions and dysregulated expression of chitinases and chitinase-like binding proteins, whose activity is essential to generate IL-10-inducing fungal chitin particles in vitro, have also been linked to inflammatory conditions and asthma. Chitin recognition is therefore critical for immune homeostasis and is likely to have a significant role in infectious and allergic disease.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004050
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

JW and NARG thank the Wellcome Trust (080088, 086827, 075470), The Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in Medical Mycology and Fungal Immunology (097377) and the European Union ALLFUN (FP7/2007 2013, HEALTH-2010-260338) for funding. MGN was supported by a Vici grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. AJPB and DMM were funded by STRIFE, ERC-2009-AdG-249793 and AJPB additionally by FINSysB, PITN-GA-2008-214004 and the BBSRC [BB/F00513X/1]. MDL was supported by the MRC (MR/J008230/1). GDB and SV were funded by the Wellcome Trust (086558) and TB and MK were funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Bi 696/3-1; Bi 696/5-2; Bi 696/10-1). MS was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Sch 897/1-3) and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (R01 DE017514-01). TDK and RKSM were funded by the National Institute of Health (AR056296, AI101935) and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.


  • Chitin
  • Secretion
  • Candida albicans
  • Cytokines
  • Macrophages
  • Cell walls
  • Inflammation
  • Fungal phatogens


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