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International Journal of Microbiology
Volume 2010, Article ID 917075, 12 pages
Review Article

The Modulation of Adaptive Immune Responses by Bacterial Zwitterionic Polysaccharides

1Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA
2Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology, and Hygiene, Medical Centre, University of Cologne, Goldenfelsstraße 19-21, 50935 Cologne, Germany
3Department of Internal Medicine, Evangelisches Krankenhaus, Weyertal, 50931 Cologne, Germany
4MVZ Dr. Stein + Kollegen, Wallstraße 10, 41061 Moenchengladbach, Germany

Received 17 June 2010; Revised 15 September 2010; Accepted 5 October 2010

Academic Editor: Charlene Kahler

Copyright © 2010 Tom Li Stephen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The detection of pathogen-derived molecules as foreign particles by adaptive immune cells triggers T and B lymphocytes to mount protective cellular and humoral responses, respectively. Recent immunological advances elucidated that proteins and some lipids are the principle biological molecules that induce protective T cell responses during microbial infections. Polysaccharides are important components of microbial pathogens and many vaccines. However, research concerning the activation of the adaptive immune system by polysaccharides gained interest only recently. Traditionally, polysaccharides were considered to be T cell-independent antigens that did not directly activate T cells or induce protective immune responses. Here, we review several recent advances in “carbohydrate immunobiology”. A group of bacterial polysaccharides that are known as “zwitterionic polysaccharides (ZPSs)” were recently identified as potent immune modulators. The immunomodulatory effect of ZPSs required antigen processing and presentation by antigen presenting cells, the activation of CD4 T cells and subpopulations of CD8 T cells and the modulation of host cytokine responses. In this review, we also discuss the potential use of these unique immunomodulatory ZPSs in new vaccination strategies against chronic inflammatory conditions, autoimmunity, infectious diseases, allergies and asthmatic conditions.