Immunomodulatory properties of Ascaris suum glycosphingolipids – phosphorylcholine and non-phosphorylcholine-dependent effects


: William Harnett, Department of Immunology, Strathclyde Institute of Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow G4 0NR, UK (e-mail:


Immunomodulatory properties of phosphorylcholine (PC)-containing glycosphingolipids from Ascaris suum were investigated utilizing immune cells from BALB/c mice. Proliferation of splenic B cells induced either via F(ab′)2 fragments of anti-murine Ig (anti-Ig) or LPS was significantly reduced when the glycosphingolipids were present in the culture medium. However whereas the LPS-mediated effect was dependent on the PC moiety of the glycosphingolipids, the result generated when using anti-Ig was not. Analysis of cell cycle status and mitochondrial potential indicated that the combination of the glycosphingolipids and anti-Ig reduced B cell proliferation, at least in part, by inducing apoptosis. Consistent with the observed suppression of B cell activation/cell cycle progression, investigation of the effect of glycosphingolipid pre-exposure on mitogenic B cell signal transduction pathways activated by anti-Ig, revealed a PC-independent inhibitory effect on dual (thr/tyr) phosphorylation and activation of ErkMAPKinase. The glycosphingolipids were also investigated for their inhibitory effect on LPS/IFN-γ induced Th1/pro-inflammatory cytokine production by peritoneal macrophages. It was found that IL-12 p40 production was inhibited and in an apparently PC-dependent manner. Overall these data indicate that PC-containing glycosphingolipids of A. suum appear to have at least two immunomodulatory constituents – PC and an as yet unknown component.