Interleukin 12 (IL-12) strongly augments gamma interferon production by natural killer (NK) and T cells. IL-12 also promotes effective cell-mediated immune responses, which are particularly important against intracellular bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes. While the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) of gram-negative bacteria induces monocyte production of IL-12, the relevant gram-positive components which induce IL-12 production are uncharacterized. We used the human monocytic cell line THP-1 to study IL-12 induction by gram- positive bacteria. Muramyl dipeptides as well as the major muramyl tetrapeptide component of Streptococcus pneumoniae were inactive for inducing IL-12. In contrast, lipoteichoic acid (LTA), a predominant surface glycolipid of gram-positive bacteria, potently induced IL-12 p40 gene expression. A competitive LPS antagonist, Rhodobacter sphaeroides LPS, inhibited LTA- induced IL-12 production, suggesting a common pathway for LPS and LTA in IL- 12 activation. Pretreatment of cells with anti-CD14 monoclonal antibody blocked both LPS and LTA induction of IL-12 p40 expression. LTA also induced Th1 development in naive CD4 T cells by an IL-12-dependent mechanism, indicating direct induction of physiologic levels of IL-12. Together, these results show that LTA is a potent surface structure of gram-positive bacteria which induces IL-12 in monocytes through a CD14-mediated pathway.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1906-1912
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996


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