Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are major integral components of the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria being exclusively located in its outer leaflet facing the bacterial environment. Chemically they consist in different bacterial strains of a highly variable O-specific chain, a less variable core oligosaccharide, and a lipid component, termed lipid A, with low structural variability. LPS participate in the physiological membrane functions and are, therefore, essential for bacterial growth and viability. They contribute to the low membrane permeability and increase the resistance towards hydrophobic agents. They are also the primary target for the attack of antibacterial drugs and proteins such as components of the host's immune response. When set free LPS elicit, in higher organisms, a broad spectrum of biological activities. They play an important role in the manifestation of Gram-negative infection and are therefore termed endotoxins. Physico-chemical parameters such as the molecular conformation and the charges of the lipid A portion, which is responsible for endotoxin-typical biological activities and is therefore termed the ‘endotoxic principle’ of LPS, are correlated with the biological activity of chemically different LPS.
Copyright © 1999 by Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG