Streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B (SPE B) is a virulent factor in group A streptococcal infection. We previously showed that SPE B reduced phagocytosis in human monocytic U937 cells. Here we show that the mycelium extract of Cordyceps sinensis (CS), a Chinese immunomodulatory herbal medicine, increased phagocytosis in U937 cells. Neither heat nor trypsin pretreatment prevented CS extract from causing this increase. Further studies indicated that SPE B-mediated suppression of U937 cell phagocytic activity was abrogated by CS extract. Factors in the conditioned medium from CS-extract-treated U937 cells were responsible for blocking the SPE B-mediated suppression of phagocytosis. Heating the conditioned medium eliminated the increase, which suggested that the U937-cell protein products augmented phagocytosis. Analyzing cytokine mRNA expression of U937 cells revealed increases in interferon-γ (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-12 p35 and p40, and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), but not in IL-1β, IL-6, or IL-8. Treating U937 cells with anti-IFN-γ, IL-12, and TNF-α antibodies also eliminated the conditioned medium-induced increase in phagocytosis. Taken together, SPE B inhibited phagocytosis, but CS mycelium extract abrogated this inhibition by causing cytokine production.
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