Lactoferrin binds CpG-containing oligonucleotides and inhibits their immunostimulatory effects on human B cells

B. E. Britigan, T. S. Lewis, M. Waldschmidt, M. L. McCormick, A. M. Krieg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


Unmethylated CpG dinucleotide motifs in bacterial DNA, as well as oligodeoxynucleotides (ODN) containing these motifs, are potent stimuli for many host immunological responses. These CpG motifs may enhance host responses to bacterial infection and are being examined as immune activators for therapeutic applications in cancer, allergy/asthma, and infectious diseases. However, little attention has been given to processes that down-modulate this response. The iron-binding protein lactoferrin is present at mucosal surfaces and at sites of infection. Since lactoferrin is known to bind DNA, we tested the hypothesis that lactoferrin will bind CpG-containing ODN and modulate their biological activity. Physiological concentrations of lactoferrin (regardless of iron content) rapidly bound CpG ODN. The related iron-binding protein transferrin lacked this capacity. ODN binding by lactoferrin did not require the presence of CpG motifs and was calcium independent. The process was inhibited by high salt, and the highly cationic N-terminal sequence of lactoferrin (lactoferricin B) was equivalent to lactoferrin in its ODN-binding ability, suggesting that ODN binding by lactoferrin occurs via chargecharge interaction. Heparin and bacterial LPS, known to bind to the lactoferricin component of lactoferrin, also inhibited ODN binding. Lactoferrin and lactoferricin B, but not transferrin, inhibited CpG ODN stimulation of CD86 expression in the human Ramos B cell line and decreased cellular uptake of ODN, a process required for CpG bioactivity. Lactoferrin binding of CpG-containing ODN may serve to modulate and terminate host response to these potent immunostimulatory molecules at mucosal surfaces and sites of bacterial infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2921-2928
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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