Carrageenan is a traditional ingredient that has been widely used in the food industry. In the present study, we propose a hypothesis that carrageenan is a conditional inflammatory agent. When the intestinal tract is in an "unhealthy" state such as that during bacterial infection or acute inflammation, carrageenan can synergistically enhance the inflammatory response.
BALB/C mice received κ-carrageenan via intragastric administration prior to the induction of oxazolone colitis. Weight changes, survival rate, histologic change, secretion of inflammatory cytokines, ratio of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in peripheral blood, and expression of genes and proteins involved in inflammation and cell proliferation in the colonic mucosa were examined.
Intragastric administration of κ-carrageenan to BALB/c mice prior to the induction of oxazolone colitis resulted in an aggravation of body weight loss, a decrease in the survival ratio, aggravation of colonic inflammation, and decrease in the ratio of CD4 + CD25+/CD4+. The secretion of interleukin-4 (IL-4), interleukin-10 (IL-10), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) also significantly increased after κ-carrageenan administration. κ-Carrageenan, together with oxazolone, suppressed the expression of forkhead box p3 (FOXp3) and increased the expression of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB), and proliferating cell nuclear antigen in the colonic mucosa. These results were confirmed by qRT-PCR and western blot analyses at the molecular and protein levels, respectively.
κ-Carrageenan aggravated oxazolone-induced intestinal inflammation in BALB/c mice. This effect is associated with an activation of the TLR4-NF-κB pathway, a decreased ratio of Tregs, and the induction of Th2-dependent immune responses.