Whole bacterial cells of as well as purified staphylococcal peptidoglycan (PG) have been demonstrated to stimulate human monocytes to release cytokines. Hypothesising that the phenomenon of changes induced by β-lactam antibiotics in cell-wall composition may alter the immunological properties of the intact cell wall as well as of purified cell-wall components, this study assessed whether cytokine release by human monocytes is altered if cells from strains grown in the presence or absence of sub-minimal inhibitory concentrations of oxacillin are used as stimuli. Whole bacterial cells and isolated PG from these strains, grown in the presence of oxacillin, showed a significantly reduced stimulation of tumour necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-1β and IL-6 release by human monocytes in a concentration-dependent fashion. The serum-induced potentiation of cytokine production by human monocytes in response to PG with modified cross-linking was also reduced. These observations may have particular relevance for staphylococcal infections, in which clinically achievable β-lactam concentrations do not suppress staphylococcal growth yet may alter and possibly enhance virulence.


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