European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

Deciphering and Exploiting the chemical features of Silent Lipopolysaccharides: a gift from gut microbiota

Project description

LPS from gut microbiota: an immune enigma

Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are glycolipids found on the outer membrane of Gram-negative bacteria and can trigger inflammatory responses. LPS are also found on the membranes of harmless and beneficial gut microbes where they are paradoxically immunologically "silent". The EU-funded DEBUGGING-LPS project aims to address this unresolved question regarding LPS immunogenicity. The working hypothesis is that the chemistry of LPS from these gut bacteria is unprecedented and is translated as an immune tolerance signal in the gut. Project results will provide fundamental insight into local and systemic immunity and help dissect the commensal and mutualistic relationship of gut microbiota with the host. Moreover, the acquired knowledge will open new opportunities for the design of novel treatments against immune disorders.


Gut Microbiota is a key actor for human health, driving many physiological and pathological processes, including immune system development and modulation. How this massive population of microorganisms, most of which are bacteria, establishes commensal, mutualistic or pathogenic interactions with the human host despite the vigilance of the immune system, is still obscure and requires an in-depth study. The story gets more intricate considering that gut is home for a myriad of Gram-negative bacteria whose outer membrane main constituent is the lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Due to its chemical structure, LPS is considered a potent elicitor of immune inflammatory reactions in mammals, being usually associated to perilous bacteria and detrimental outcomes for human health. Nevertheless, LPS also decorates the membrane of harmless and beneficial Gram-negatives of gut microbiota. How LPS is tolerated and remains (apparently) silent in the gut is a major unsolved question representing a frontier in our understanding of innate immunity.
DEBUGGING-LPS project will contribute to answer this question, starting from the assumption that the chemistry of LPS is the real message taken from human host of the bacterial interaction, either beneficial or harmful. Strategically based on my expertise in organic chemistry, and integrating synthetic chemistry and cellular immunology studies, DEBUGGING-LPS will decrypt the 'chemical language' spoken by LPS in the gut. This project will deliver a clear picture of the chemistry at the basis of the difference between 'good' and 'bad' LPS, providing tools for the exploitation of the acquired knowledge to create novel therapeutics for resolving/mitigating immune disorders. DEBUGGING-LPS has been conceived to go beyond the state-of-the-art, breaking the dogma of LPS as an enemy, leaving space for a new vision of this glycomolecule: i.e. no longer as a toxic bacterial product rather as an immune signal vital for the proper functioning of our body.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 954 308,00
80138 Napoli

See on map

Sud Campania Napoli
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 954 308,00

Beneficiaries (1)