The Toll-like receptor 4 agonist monophosphoryl lipid a augments innate host resistance to systemic bacterial infection.


Monophosphoryl lipid A (MPLA) is a Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) agonist that is currently used as a vaccine adjuvant in humans. In this study, we evaluated the effect of MPLA treatment on the innate immune response to systemic bacterial infections in mice. Mice treated with MPLA after burn injury showed improved survival and less local and systemic dissemination of bacteria in a model of Pseudomonas aeruginosa burn wound infection. Prophylactic treatment with MPLA significantly enhanced bacterial clearance at the site of infection and reduced systemic dissemination of bacteria despite causing attenuation of proinflammatory cytokine production during acute intra-abdominal infection caused by cecal ligation and puncture. Administration of MPLA at 1 h after CLP also improved bacterial clearance but did not alter cytokine production. MPLA treatment increased the numbers of granulocytes, double-positive myeloid cells, and macrophages at sites of infection and increased the percentage and total numbers of myeloid cells mediating phagocytosis of bacteria. Depletion of Ly6G(+) neutrophils, but not macrophages, eliminated the ability of MPLA treatment to improve bacterial clearance. The immunomodulatory effects of MPLA were absent in TLR4-deficient mice. In conclusion, these studies show that MPLA treatment significantly augments the innate immune response to bacterial infection by enhancing bacterial clearance despite the attenuation of proinflammatory cytokine production. The enhanced bacterial clearance is mediated, in part, by increased numbers of myeloid cells with effective phagocytic functions at sites of infection and is TLR4 dependent.