Aim: To explore the possible effects of hyaluronan, an endogenous mediator of inflammation, on monocyte surface expression of Toll-like receptors 2 and 4 in human umbilical cord blood ex vivo, and in a model mimicking Gram-negative neonatal sepsis.
Methods: Term infant cord blood was obtained after elective caesarean sections, n = 15. Both unstimulated and lipopolysaccharide-stimulated (10 ng/mL) blood was incubated with 500 μg/mL high- or low-molecular-weight hyaluronan for 6 h. Expression of Toll-like receptors 2 and 4 on monocytes was measured using flow cytometry, and plasma concentrations of proinflammatory cytokines and matrix metalloproteinase 9 were analysed.
Results (mean ± SEM): We found a significant decrease in Toll-like receptor 4 expression in the presence of high-molecular-weight hyaluronan (HMW HA) in unstimulated blood (median fluorescence intensity 141 ± 7.3 vs. 163 ± 9.8, p = 0.019). There were no significant changes in Toll-like receptor 2 expression. Levels of cytokines and matrix metalloproteinase 9 increased in the presence of both forms of hyaluronan.
Conclusions: Our results confirm that hyaluronan affects the neonatal immune response. The biological significance of these findings requires further clarification. More studies are needed to validate the possible down-modulation of Toll-like receptor 4 exerted by HMW HA.