Evidence for proinflammatory β-1,6 glucans in the pneumocystis carinii cell wall

Theodore J. Kottom, Deanne M. Hebrink, Paige E. Jenson, Gunnar Gudmundsson, Andrew H. Limper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Inflammation is a major cause of respiratory impairment during Pneumocystis pneumonia. Studies support a significant role for cell wall β-glucans in stimulating inflammatory responses. Fungal β-glucans are comprised of D-glucose homopolymers containing β-1,3-linked glucose backbones with β-1,6-linked glucose side chains. Prior studies in Pneumocystis carinii have characterized β-1,3 glucan components of the organism. However, recent investigations in other organisms support important roles for β-1,6 glucans, predominantly in mediating host cellular activation. Accordingly, we sought to characterize β-1,6 glucans in the cell wall of Pneumocystis and to establish their activity in lung cell inflammation. Immune staining revealed specific β-1,6 localization in P. carinii cyst walls. Homology-based cloning facilitated characterization of a functional P. carinii kre6 (Pckre6) β-1,6 glucan synthase in Pneumocystis that, when expressed in kre6-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae, restored cell wall stability. Recently synthesized β-1,6 glucan synthase inhibitors decreased the ability of isolated P. carinii preparations to generate β-1,6 carbohydrate. In addition, isolated β-1,6 glucan fractions from Pneumocystis elicited vigorous tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) responses from macrophages. These inflammatory responses were significantly dampened by inhibition of host cell plasma membrane microdomain function. Together, these studies indicate that β-1,6 glucans are present in the P. carinii cell wall and contribute to lung cell inflammatory activation during infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2816-2826
Number of pages11
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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