Earlier studies showed that Micrococcus luteus cells and cell walls induced anaphylactoid reactions leading to death, in some instances within 1 h, in C3H/HeN mice primed with muramyl dipeptide (MDP). They also induced serum cytokines in the surviving mice. The present study investigated the structural components responsible for these activities. Teichuronic acids, a component of M. luteus Cell walls, induced tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in MDP-primed C3H/HeN mice. Peptidoglycans had little effect on the cytokine-inducing activities. Reducing teichuronic acids, i.e., teichuronic acids whose carboxyl groups had been reduced, lost their cytokine-inducing activities. Neither peptidoglycans nor teichuronic acids induced anaphylactoid reactions in the MDP-primed mice. Purified teichuronic acids also induced TNF-a and IL-6 production in C3H/HeN murine peritoneal macrophages and human whole-blood cells in the culture, but reduced teichuronic acids did not. The purified teichuronic acids induced no TNF-α and only low levels of IL-6 in MDP-primed C3H/HeJ mice, and neither cytokine in peritoneal macrophage cultures from C3H/HeJ mice with a single point of mutation in Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) gene. These findings suggest that induction of cytokines by teichuronic acids is mainly TLR4-dependent.
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