Endotoxin or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is a cell wall component of Gram-negative bacteria. Like aeroallergens, LPS is ubiquitous in our living environment. Epidemiology studies in young children have found that LPS exposure at home is inversely correlated with the development of atopic diseases, thus the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ for allergic diseases. However, positive association has also been found between indoor LPS exposure and the development of wheezing or asthma in children. In humans, experimental exposure to LPS in the airways can cause inflammatory responses and lung function changes directly or modulate responses to allergens indirectly, particularly in those with asthma. In animal studies, experimental exposure to LPS has generated some conflicting, sometimes opposite, results in host responses to allergen stimulation. In this article, we will review recent advances in our understanding of the immunomodulating effects of LPS on allergen-induced responses and analyse some of the possible reasons for the inconsistent findings.
Cite this as: Z. Zhu, S. Y. Oh, T. Zheng and Y-K. Kim, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2010 (40) 536–546.