Impacts of sulfur fumigation on the chemistry and immunomodulatory activity of polysaccharides in ginseng

Jing Fang, Yi Xuan Li, Han Yan Luo, Wei Hao Zhang, Kam Chun Chan, Yui Man Chan, Hu Biao Chen, Zhong Zhen Zhao, Song Lin Li*, Cai Xia Dong*, Jun Xu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Ginseng is widely regarded as a panacea in Oriental medicine mainly due to its immunomodulatory activity. We previously found that sulfur fumigation, a commonly used pesticidal and anti-bacterial processing practice, weakened the immunomodulatory activity of ginseng. However, if and how sulfur fumigation affects the polysaccharides in ginseng, the crucial components contributing to the immunomodulatory function, remain unknown. Here we report that polysaccharides extracted from sulfur-fumigated ginseng (SGP) presented different chemical properties with polysaccharides extracted with non-fumigated ginseng (NGP), particularly increased water extraction yield and decreased branching degree. SGP had weaker immunomodulatory activity than NGP in immunocompromised mice, as evidenced by less improved immunophenotypes involving body weight, immune organ indexes, white blood cells, lymphocyte cell populations and inflammation. The different immunomodulatory activities were accompanied by changes in the interaction between the polysaccharides and gut microbiota, in which SGP stimulated the growth of different bacteria but produced less SCFAs as compared to NGP. Fecal microbiota transplantation experiment suggested that gut microbiota played a central role in causing the weakened immunomodulatory activity in vivo. This study provides definite evidence that sulfur fumigation affects the chemistry and bioactivity of ginseng polysaccharides, thereby contributing to understanding how sulfur fumigation weakens the immunomodulatory activity of ginseng.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125843
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Macromolecules
Early online date17 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry

User-Defined Keywords

  • Ginseng polysaccharides
  • Immunomodulatory activity
  • Sulfur fumigation


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