Bacteriophages immunomodulate the response of monocytes

Lídia Perea, Lorena Rodríguez-Rubio, Juan C. Nieto, Carlos Zamora, Elisabet Cantó, German Soriano, Maria Poca, Pedro Blanco-Picazo, Ferran Navarro, Maite Muniesa, Silvia Vidal*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Bacteriophages are present in fluids from cirrhosis patients. However, their effect on the immune response is unknown. In this work, we explore the role of phages in the phenotype, function, and cytokine production of monocytes. We stimulated healthy monocytes with five different butanol-purified phage suspensions infective for Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria. We studied the expression of the monocyte markers involved in lipopolysaccharide recognition (LPS; CD14), antigen presentation (HLA-DR) and co-stimulation (CD86), and the concentration of induced cytokines (TNF-α, IFN-α, and IL-10) by phages. To confirm the direct role of phages without the interference of contaminating soluble LPS in phage suspensions, polymyxin B was added to the cell cultures. Phagocytosis experiments were assessed by flow cytometry using labeled phage suspensions. We observed that butanol-purified phages reduced the surface levels of CD14 and CD86 in monocytes and increased the secreted levels of TNF-α and IL-10 compared with the control sample containing only butanol buffer. All phage suspensions showed downregulation of HLA-DR expression but only Staphylococcus aureus phage contaminated with Escherichia coli reached statistical significance. The addition of polymyxin B did not restore the monocytic response induced by phages, suggesting that the effect was not caused by the presence of LPS. Monocytes were able to phagocyte phages in a dose- and time-dependent manner. To conclude, the phagocytosis of butanol-purified phages altered the phenotype and cytokine production of monocytes suggesting they become tolerogenic.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Publication statusAccepted in press - 2021


  • Bacteriophages
  • cirrhosis
  • immunity


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