* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received February 25, 2013; Revision received March 6, 2013
Pectins are the major component of plant cell walls, and they display diverse biological activities including immunomodulation. The pectin macromolecule contains fragments of linear and branched regions of polysaccharides such as homogalacturonan, rhamnogalacturonan-I, xylogalacturonan, and apiogalacturonan. These structural features determine the effect of pectins on the immune system. The backbones of pectic macromolecules have immunosuppressive activity. Pectins containing greater than 80% galacturonic acid residues were found to decrease macrophage activity and inhibit the delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction. Branched galacturonan fragments result in a biphasic immunomodulatory action. The branched region of pectins mediates both increased phagocytosis and antibody production. The fine structure of the galactan, arabinan, and apiogalacturonan side chains determines the stimulating interaction between pectin and immune cells. This review summarizes data regarding the relationship between the structure and immunomodulatory activity of pectins isolated from the plants of the European north of Russia and elucidates the concept of polypotency of pectins in native plant cell walls to both stimulate and suppress the immune response. The possible mechanisms of the immunostimulatory and anti-inflammatory effects of pectins are also discussed.
KEY WORDS: pectic polysaccharides, structure–activity relations, immunomodulatory effect, polypotency