Cholesterol-induced apoptotic macrophages elicit an inflammatory response in phagocytes, which is partially attenuated by the Mer receptor

Yankun Li, Marie Christine Gerbod-Giannone, Heather Seitz, Dongying Cui, Edward Thorp, Alan R. Tall, Glenn K. Matsushima, Ira Tabas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Macrophage apoptosis and the ability of phagocytes to clear these apoptotic cells are important processes in advanced atherosclerosis. Phagocytic clearance not only disposes of dead cells but usually elicits an anti-inflammatory response. To study this process in amodel of advanced lesional macrophage death, macrophages rendered apoptotic by free cholesterol loading (FC-AMs) were incubated briefly with fresh macrophages ("phagocytes"). FC-AMs were promptly ingested by the phagocytes, which was dependent upon actin polymerization and the phagocyte Mer receptor. Surprisingly, this brief exposure to FC-AMs triggered amodest proinflammatory response in the phagocytes: tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin (IL)-1β were induced, whereas the levels of transforming growth factor-β and IL-10 were not increased. This response required cell contact between the FC-AMs and phagocytes but not FC-AM ingestion. TNF-α and IL-1β induction required one or more proteins on the FC-AM surface and was dependent on signaling through extracellular signal-regulated kinase-1/2 mitogen-activated protein kinase and nuclear factor-κB in the phagocytes. TNF-α production was markedly greater when Mer-defective phagocytes were used, indicating that Mer attenuated the inflammatory response. Interestingly, a more typical anti-inflammatory response was elicited when phagocytes were exposed to macrophages rendered apoptotic by oxidized low density lipoprotein or UV radiation. Thus, the proinflammatory milieu of advanced atherosclerotic lesions may be promoted, or at least not dampened, by contact between FC-induced apoptotic macrophages and neighboring phagocytes prior to apoptotic cell ingestion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6707-6717
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Mar 10 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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