Glucans Exhibit Weak Antioxidant Activity, but Stimulate Macrophage Free Radical Activity

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Polymeric carbohydrates have been reported to modulate inflammatory responses in vitro and in vivo. Previous reports suggest that certain carbohydrate polymers, such as (1→3)-β-D-glucans, may possess free radical scavenging activity. If glucans are free radical scavengers then it might explain, in part, the ability of these ligands to modulate inflammatory responses. The present study examined the free radical scavenging activity of a variety of carbohydrate polymers and the effect of the polymers on free radical levels in a murine macrophage cell line. All of the carbohydrates exhibited concentration dependent antioxidant effects (EC50 range = 807 to 43 μg/ml). However, the antioxidant activity for the carbohydrates was modest in comparison with PDTC (EC50 = 0.13 μg/ml) and the carbohydrate concentration required for antioxidant activity was high (×̄ EC50 = 283 μg/ml). The antioxidant ability of the polymers was greater (p < .05) than their monosaccharide constituents, i.e., dextrose EC50 = 807 vs. glucan sulfate EC50 = 43 μg/ml. Coincubation of glucans with murine J774a.1 cells increased free radical levels when compared to controls. Therefore, the weak free radical scavenging activity of glucan polymers cannot explain their modulatory effect on inflammatory responses in tissue culture and/or disease models of inflammation.