Microbial glycolipids: possible virulence factors that scavenge oxygen radicals

J. Chan, T. Fujiwara, P. Brennan, M. McNeil, S. J. Turco, J. C. Sibille, M. Snapper, P. Aisen, B. R. Bloom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

222 Scopus citations


Two important pathogens of developing countries, Mycobacterium leprae, the etiologic agent of leprosy, and Leishmania donovani, the protozoal parasite that causes kalaazar, persist in the human host primarily in mononuclear phagocytes. The mechanisms by which they survive in these otherwise highly cytocidal cells are presently unknown. Since the best understood cytocidal mechanism of these cells is the oxygen-dependent system that provides lethal oxidants including the superoxide anion (O2-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH·), and singlet oxygen (1O2), we sought specific microbial products of these organisms that might enable them to elude oxidative cytocidal mechanisms. Phenolic glycolipid I of M. leprae and lipophosphoglycan of L. donovani are unique cell-wall-associated glycolipids produced in large amounts by the organisms. In this study, phenolic glycolipid I derivatives and lipophosphoglycan were examined for their ability to scavenge potentially cytocidal oxygen metabolites in vitro. Electron spin resonance and spin-trapping indicate that phenolic glycolipid I derivatives and lipophosphoglycan are highly effective in scavenging hydroxyl radicals and superoxide anions. The results suggest that complex glycolipids and carbohydrates of intracellular pathogens that can scavenge oxygen radicals may contribute to their pathogenicity and virulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2453-2457
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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