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Endotoxins – What are Those?

by | Jul 29, 2023

Endotoxins are structural components of bacteria. Together with phospholipids and membrane-bound proteins, they comprise the outer membrane of gram-negative bacteria. They are released mainly when bacteria are lysed, due to the use of antibiotics or because of the body’s defense mechanism to stress. The structure of an endotoxin is a lipopolysaccharide or LPS. These LPSs are responsible for many interactions within the host.

An LPS consists of three structural elements. 1) A hydrophobic component, called lipid A, which serves to anchor the molecule into the membrane. 2) A core oligosaccharide, and 3) A hydrophilic O-polysaccharide (O-Antigen in picture above) projecting into the extracellular space. The loss of the proximal part of the core oligosaccharide causes the bacterial cell to become extremely sensitive to detergents, antibiotics, and bile salts. So, it seems that this region is essential for the maintenance of outer membrane functions as a biological barrier. Mutations altering the lipid A component are mostly not viable, suggesting that it is important for the maintenance of outer membrane integrity.

The physiological activities of LPS are mediated mainly by the Lipid A component of LPS. Lipid A is a powerful biological response modifi­er that can stimulate the mammalian immune system. During infectious disease caused by Gram-negative bacteria, endotoxins released from multiplying cells have similar effects on animals as the encountered disease and can significantly contribute to its symptoms and pathology. The injection of living or killed Gram-negative cells or purifi­ed LPS into experimental animals causes a wide spectrum of non-specifi­c pathophysiological reactions, such as fever, changes in white blood cell counts, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hypotension, shock, and death. Endotoxins have a wide variety of effects on livestock, mainly affecting performance parameters.

As always, thank you for your role in feeding an ever-growing world! When looking at all the factors that play into growing and maintaining a healthy herd and flock, looking at endotoxins AS WELL AS mycotoxins is very important. These LPS can cause lots of damage and can be produced in various ways (many things that we do daily can contribute to their production). Essential Ag is here to help YOU and keep your livestock productive and profitable.