The purpose of this study was to define cell-wall components of responsible for activation of human polymorphonuclear leucocytes (PMNL). Metabolic activation of PMNL was determined by chemiluminescence (CL). Purified peptidoglycan (PG) induced a concentration-dependent metabolic burst in PMNL. The minimal concentration needed for CL induction was 1 μg/ml. Comparison between different strains showed variation in the capacity to induce CL in PMNL. Purified PG induced a higher CL response in PMNL than its intact parent strain; this effect was found in all strains. Lipoteichoic acid (LTA), PG stem peptide and muramyldipeptide (MDP) did not induce CL; teichoic acid induced a CL response only at very high concentrations. No differences in CL inducing capacity were found between PG, crude cell walls, and purified cell walls of Sonication of PG strongly diminished CL-inducing capacity. PG treatment with mutanolysin immediately resulted in decreased CL-inducing capacity. Treatment of PG with lytic enzyme (SALE) 10 μg/ml for up to 15 min enhanced the CL response to PMNL; a similar increase in CL was induced by PG treated with SALE at 1 μg/ml for up to 120 min. Beyond these times, a continuous decrease in PG-induced CL was observed. In conclusion, PG was found to be the major cell-wall component of involved in CL induction. Moreover, a minimal fragment size or a specific tertiary structure of PG, or both, is required for metabolic activation of PMNL.


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