Severe sepsis is associated with dysfunction of the macrophage/monocyte, an important cellular effector of the innate immune system. Previous investigations suggested that probiotic components effectively enhance effector cell functions of the immune system in vivo. In this study, we produced bacteria-free, lysozyme-modified probiotic components (LzMPC) by treating the probiotic bacteria, Lactobacillus sp., with lysozyme. We showed that oral delivery of LzMPC effectively protected rats against lethality from polymicrobial sepsis induced by cecal ligation and puncture. We found that orally administrated LzMPC was engulfed by cells such as macrophages in the liver after crossing the intestinal barrier. Moreover, LzMPC-induced protection was associated with an increase in bacterial clearance in the liver. In vitro, LzMPC up-regulated the expression of cathelicidin-related antimicrobial peptide (CRAMP) in macrophages and enhanced bactericidal activity of these cells. Furthermore, we demonstrated that surgical stress or cecal ligation and puncture caused a decrease in CRAMP expression in the liver, whereas enteral administration of LzMPC restored CRAMP gene expression in these animals. Using a neutralizing Ab, we showed that protection against sepsis by LzMPC treatment required endogenous CRAMP. In addition, macrophages from LzMPC-treated rats had an enhanced capacity of cytokine production in response to LPS or LzMPC stimulation. Together, our data suggest that the protective effect of LzMPC in sepsis is related to an enhanced cathelicidin-related innate immunity in macrophages. Therefore, LzMPC, a novel probiotic product, is a potent immunomodulator for macrophages and may be beneficial for the treatment of sepsis.

DOI 10.4049/jimmunol.177.12.8767