Anemia of chronic disease is a multifactorial disorder, resulting mainly from inflammation-driven reticuloendothelial iron retention, impaired erythropoiesis, and reduced biological activity of erythropoietin. Erythropoiesis-stimulating agents have been used for the treatment of anemia of chronic disease, although with varying response rates and potential adverse effects. Serum concentrations of hepcidin, a key regulator of iron homeostasis, are increased in patients with anemia of chronic disease and linked to the pathogenesis of this disease, because hepcidin blocks cellular iron egress, thus limiting availability of iron for erythropoiesis. We tested whether serum hepcidin levels can predict and affect the therapeutic efficacy of erythropoiesis-stimulating agent treatment using a well-established rat model of anemia of chronic disease. We found that high pre-treatment hepcidin levels correlated with an impaired hematologic response to an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent in rats with anemia of chronic disease. Combined treatment with an erythropoiesis-stimulating agent and an inhibitor of hepcidin expression, LDN-193189, significantly reduced serum hepcidin levels, mobilized iron from tissue stores, increased serum iron levels and improved hemoglobin levels more effectively than did the erythropoiesis-stimulating agent or LDN-193189 monotherapy. In parallel, both the erythropoiesis-stimulating agent and erythropoiesis-stimulating agent/LDN-193189 combined reduced the expression of cytokines known to inhibit erythropoiesis. We conclude that serum hepcidin levels can predict the hematologic responsiveness to erythropoiesis-stimulating agent therapy in anemia of chronic disease. Pharmacological inhibition of hepcidin formation improves the erythropoiesis-stimulating agent's therapeutic efficacy, which may favor a reduction of erythropoiesis-stimulating agent dosages, costs and side effects.
Iron homeostasis and macrophage biology are closely interconnected. On the one hand, iron exerts multiple effects on macrophage polarization and functionality. On the other hand, macrophages are central for mammalian iron homeostasis. The phagocytosis of senescent erythrocytes and their degradation by macrophages enable efficient recycling of iron and the maintenance of systemic iron balance. Macrophages express multiple molecules and proteins for the acquisition and utilization of iron and many of these pathways are affected by inflammatory signals. Of note, iron availability within macrophages has significant effects on immune effector functions and metabolic pathways within these cells. This review summarizes the physiological and pathophysiological aspects of macrophage iron metabolism and highlights its relevant consequences on immune function and in common diseases such as infection and atherosclerosis.
Bacterial sepsis results in high mortality rates, and new therapeutics to control infection are urgently needed. Here, we investigate the therapeutic potential of fibrates in the treatment of bacterial sepsis and examine their effects on innate immunity. Fibrates significantly improved the survival from sepsis in mice infected with Salmonella typhimurium, which was paralleled by markedly increased neutrophil influx to the site of infection resulting in rapid clearance of invading bacteria. As a consequence of fibrate-mediated early control of infection, the systemic inflammatory response was repressed in fibrate-treated mice. Mechanistically, we found that fibrates preserve chemotaxis of murine neutrophils by blocking LPS-induced phosphorylation of ERK. This results in a decrease of G protein-coupled receptor kinase-2 expression, thereby inhibiting the LPS-mediated downregulation of CXCR2, a chemokine receptor critical for neutrophil recruitment. Accordingly, application of a synthetic CXCR2 inhibitor completely abrogated the protective effects of fibrates in septicemia in vivo. Our results unravel a novel function of fibrates in innate immunity and host response to infection and suggest fibrates as a promising adjunct therapy in bacterial sepsis.
Both, mammalian cells and microbes have an essential need for iron, which is required for many metabolic processes and for microbial pathogenicity. In addition, cross-regulatory interactions between iron homeostasis and immune function are evident. Cytokines and the acute phase protein hepcidin affect iron homeostasis leading to the retention of the metal within macrophages and hypoferremia. This is considered to result from a defense mechanism of the body to limit the availability of iron for extracellular pathogens while on the other hand the reduction of circulating iron results in the development of anemia of inflammation. Opposite, iron and the erythropoiesis inducing hormone erythropoietin affect innate immune responses by influencing interferon-gamma (IFN-?) mediated (iron) or NF-kB inducible (erythropoietin) immune effector pathways in macrophages. Thus, macrophages loaded with iron lose their ability to kill intracellular pathogens via IFN-? mediated effector pathways such as nitric oxide (NO) formation. Accordingly, macrophages invaded by the intracellular bacterium Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium increase the expression of the iron export protein ferroportin thereby reducing the availability of iron for intramacrophage bacteria while on the other side strengthening anti-microbial macrophage effector pathways via increased formation of NO or TNF-?. In addition, certain innate resistance genes such as natural resistance associated macrophage protein function (Nramp1) or lipocalin-2 exert part of their antimicrobial activity by controlling host and/or microbial iron homeostasis. Consequently, pharmacological or dietary modification of cellular iron trafficking enhances host resistance to intracellular pathogens but may increase susceptibility to microbes in the extracellular compartment and vice versa. Thus, the control over iron homeostasis is a central battlefield in host-pathogen interplay influencing the course of an infectious disease in favor of either the mammalian host or the pathogenic invader.
Macrophages play a key role in responding to pathogens and initiate an inflammatory response to combat microbe multiplication. Deactivation of macrophages facilitates resolution of the inflammatory response. Deactivated macrophages are characterized by an immunosuppressive phenotype, but the lack of unique markers that can reliably identify these cells explains the poorly defined biological role of this macrophage subset. We identified lipocalin 2 (LCN2) as both a marker of deactivated macrophages and a macrophage deactivator. We show that LCN2 attenuated the early inflammatory response and impaired bacterial clearance, leading to impaired survival of mice suffering from pneumococcal pneumonia. LCN2 induced IL-10 formation by macrophages, skewing macrophage polarization in a STAT3-dependent manner. Pulmonary LCN2 levels were tremendously elevated during bacterial pneumonia in humans, and high LCN2 levels were indicative of a detrimental outcome from pneumonia with Gram-positive bacteria. Our data emphasize the importance of macrophage deactivation for the outcome of pneumococcal infections and highlight the role of LCN2 and IL-10 as determinants of macrophage performance in the respiratory tract.
Nitric oxide (NO) generated by inducible NO synthase 2 (NOS2) affects cellular iron homeostasis, but the underlying molecular mechanisms and implications for NOS2-dependent pathogen control are incompletely understood. In this study, we found that NO up-regulated the expression of ferroportin-1 (Fpn1), the major cellular iron exporter, in mouse and human cells. Nos2(-/-) macrophages displayed increased iron content due to reduced Fpn1 expression and allowed for an enhanced iron acquisition by the intracellular bacterium Salmonella typhimurium. Nos2 gene disruption or inhibition of NOS2 activity led to an accumulation of iron in the spleen and splenic macrophages. Lack of NO formation resulted in impaired nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor-2 (Nrf2) expression, resulting in reduced Fpn1 transcription and diminished cellular iron egress. After infection of Nos2(-/-) macrophages or mice with S. typhimurium, the increased iron accumulation was paralleled by a reduced cytokine (TNF, IL-12, and IFN-?) expression and impaired pathogen control, all of which were restored upon administration of the iron chelator deferasirox or hyperexpression of Fpn1 or Nrf2. Thus, the accumulation of iron in Nos2(-/-) macrophages counteracts a proinflammatory host immune response, and the protective effect of NO appears to partially result from its ability to prevent iron overload in macrophages.
Lipocalin-2 (Lcn-2) is involved in divergent processes such as acute kidney injury or bacterial host defence. Our study was designed to evaluate the functional role of Lcn-2 in nephrotoxic serum nephritis (NTS). Since Lcn-2 is expressed in tubular epithelial cells as well as in cells of innate immunity such as macrophages and polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN), we induced NTS in wild-type (WT), Lcn-2 knock-out (KO) mice and WT/Lcn-2 KO chimeras. Mice lacking Lcn-2 exhibited more glomerular damage with increased proteinuria and interstitial leukocyte accumulation compared to WT mice. Chimeras able to express Lcn-2 in macrophages and PMN but not in epithelial cells were found to develop NTS comparable to wild-type controls. In contrast, chimeras expressing Lcn-2 in tubular epithelial cells with no expression in innate immune cells developed increased NTS due to decreased concerted apoptosis but increased necrosis and formation of damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) such as high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB-1) in the kidney. In vivo blockade of HMGB-1, a toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 agonist, significantly reduced inflammation and NTS in Lcn-2 knock-out mice. In parallel, TLR-2 signalling was found to drive Lcn-2 transcription in vitro. Taken together, Lcn-2 expressed in innate immune cells is protective in NTS by inducing concerted apoptosis and inhibiting the formation of HMGB-1 thereby limiting cytokine production via TLR-2 signalling. In parallel, TLR-2 dependent transcription of Lcn-2 is an endogenous inhibitor of inflammation in NTS.
Erythropoietin (EPO) is a multi-functional cytokine, which exerts erythropoietic effects but also carries anti-apoptotic and immune-modulatory activities upon binding to two distinct receptors which are expressed on erythroid, parenchymal and immune cells, respectively. Whereas EPO ameliorates hemolytic anemia in malaria or trypanosomiasis and improves the course of autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease or autoimmune encephalomyelitis, it deleteriously inhibits macrophage functions in Salmonella infection in animal models. Thus, the specific modulation of extra-erythropoietic EPO activity forms an attractive therapeutic target in infection and inflammation.
Increased levels of hepcidin, the master regulator of iron homeostasis, contribute to the diversion of iron underlying the anemia of chronic disease. Yet hepcidin levels are low in anemia of chronic disease with concomitant true iron deficiency. Here we clarify the different underlying pathways regulating hepcidin expression under these conditions in vivo.
Iron overload can adversely influence the course of infection by increasing microbial replication and suppressing antimicrobial immune effector pathways. Recently, we have shown that the calcium channel blocker nifedipine can mobilize tissue iron in mouse models of iron overload. We therefore investigated whether nifedipine treatment affects the course of infection with intracellular bacteria via modulation of iron homeostasis.
Anemia of chronic inflammation (ACI) is the most frequent anemia in hospitalized patients and is associated with significant morbidity. A major underlying mechanism of ACI is the retention of iron within cells of the reticuloendothelial system (RES), thus making the metal unavailable for efficient erythropoiesis. This reticuloendothelial iron sequestration is primarily mediated by excess levels of the iron regulatory peptide hepcidin down-regulating the functional expression of the only known cellular iron export protein ferroportin resulting in blockade of iron egress from these cells. Using a well-established rat model of ACI, we herein provide novel evidence for effective treatment of ACI by blocking endogenous hepcidin production using the small molecule dorsomorphin derivative LDN-193189 or the protein soluble hemojuvelin-Fc (HJV.Fc) to inhibit bone morphogenetic protein-Smad mediated signaling required for effective hepcidin transcription. Pharmacologic inhibition of hepcidin expression results in mobilization of iron from the RES, stimulation of erythropoiesis and correction of anemia. Thus, hepcidin lowering agents are a promising new class of pharmacologic drugs to effectively combat ACI.
Erythropoietin (EPO) is the principal cytokine regulating erythropoiesis through its receptor, EPOR. Interestingly, EPORs are also found on immune cells with incompletely understood functions. Here, we show that EPO inhibits the induction of proinflammatory genes including tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-? and inducible nitric oxide (NO) synthase in activated macrophages, which is mechanistically attributable to blockage of nuclear factor (NF)-?B p65 activation by EPO. Accordingly, in systemic Salmonella infection, treatment of mice with EPO results in reduced survival and impaired pathogen clearance because of diminished formation of anti-microbial effector molecules such as TNF-? and NO. However, neutralization of endogenous EPO or genetic ablation of Epor promotes Salmonella elimination. In contrast, in chemically induced colitis, EPO-EPOR interaction decreases the production of NF-?B-inducible immune mediators, thus limiting tissue damage and ameliorating disease severity. These immune-modulatory effects of EPO may be of therapeutic relevance in infectious and inflammatory diseases.
Iron holds a central position at the host-pathogen interface because mammalian and microbial cells have an essential demand for the metal, which is required for many metabolic processes. In addition, cross-regulatory interactions between iron homeostasis and immune function are evident. While iron affects the secretion of cytokines and the activity of transcription factors orchestrating immune responses, immune cell-derived mediators and acute-phase proteins control both systemic and cellular iron homeostasis. Additionally, immune-mediated strategies aim at restricting the supply of the essential nutrient iron to pathogens, which represents an effective strategy of host defence. On the other hand, microbes have evoked multiple strategies to utilize iron because a sufficient supply of this metal is linked to pathogen proliferation, virulence and persistence. The control over iron homeostasis is a central battlefield in host-pathogen interplay influencing the course of an infectious disease in favour of either the mammalian host or the pathogenic invader. This review summarizes our current knowledge on the combat of host cells and pathogens for the essential nutrient iron focusing on the immune-regulatory roles of iron on cell-mediated immunity necessary to control intracellular microbes, the hosts mechanisms of iron restriction and on the counter-acting iron-acquisition strategies employed by intracellular microbes.
Recently, the iron and erythropoiesis-controlled growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15) has been shown to inhibit the expression of hepcidin in beta-thalassaemia patients, thereby increasing iron absorption despite iron overload. To access the diagnostic and pathogenic impact of GDF15 in inflammatory anaemia the association of GDF15 expression with serum iron parameters and hepcidin was studied in patients suffering from iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), anaemia of chronic disease (ACD) and ACD subjects with true iron deficiency (ACD/IDA). GDF15 was significantly increased in both ACD and ACD/IDA, but not in IDA subjects as compared to controls. In contrast, hepcidin levels were significantly lower in IDA and ACD/IDA subjects than in ACD patients. IDA and ACD/IDA, but not ACD, showed an association between GDF15 and soluble transferrin receptor, an indicator of iron requirement for erythropoiesis. However, GDF15 did not correlate to hepcidin in either patient group. While GDF15 levels were linked to the needs for erythropoiesis and iron homeostasis in IDA, the immunity-driven increase of GDF15 may not primarily affect iron homeostasis and hepcidin expression. This indicates that other ACD-related factors may overcome the regulatory effects of GDF15 on hepcidin expression during inflammation.
Mutations of HFE are associated with hereditary hemochromatosis, but their influence on host susceptibility to infection is incompletely understood. We report that mice lacking one or both Hfe alleles are protected from septicemia with Salmonella Typhimurium, displaying prolonged survival and improved control of bacterial replication. This increased resistance is paralleled by an enhanced production of the enterochelin-binding peptide lipocalin-2 (Lcn2), which reduces the availability of iron for Salmonella within Hfe-deficient macrophages. Accordingly, Hfe(-/-)Lcn2(-/-) macrophages are unable to efficiently control the infection or to withhold iron from intracellular Salmonella. Correspondingly, the protection conferred by the Hfe defect is abolished in Hfe(-/-) mice infected with enterochelin-deficient Salmonella as well as in Hfe(-/-)Lcn2(-/-) mice infected with wild-type bacteria. Thus, by induction of the iron-capturing peptide Lcn2, absence of functional Hfe confers host resistance to systemic infection with Salmonella, thereby providing an evolutionary advantage which may account for the high prevalence of genetic hemochromatosis.
The natural resistance-associated macrophage protein 1, Slc11a1, is a phagolysosomal transporter for protons and divalent ions including iron that confers host protection against diverse intracellular pathogens including Salmonella. We investigated and compared the regulation of iron homeostasis and immune function in RAW264.7 murine phagocytes stably transfected with non-functional Slc11a1 and functional Slc11a1 controls in response to an infection with Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. We report that macrophages lacking functional Slc11a1 displayed an increased expression of transferrin receptor 1, resulting in enhanced acquisition of transferrin-bound iron. In contrast, cellular iron release mediated via ferroportin 1 was significantly lower in Salmonella-infected Slc11a1-negative macrophages in comparison with phagocytes bearing Slc11a1. Lack of Slc11a1 led to intracellular persistence of S. enterica serovar Typhimurium within macrophages, which was paralleled by a reduced formation of nitric oxide, tumour necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-6 in Slc11a1-negative macrophages following Salmonella infection, whereas interleukin-10 production was increased. Moreover, Slc11a1-negative phagocytes exhibited higher cellular iron content, resulting in increased iron acquisition by intracellular Salmonella. Our observations indicate a bifunctional role for Slc11a1 within phagocytes. Slc11a restricts iron availability, which first augments pro-inflammatory macrophage effector functions and second concomitantly limits microbial iron access.
The anemia of chronic disease (ACD) is characterized by macrophage iron retention induced by cytokines and the master regulator hepcidin. Hepcidin controls cellular iron efflux on binding to the iron export protein ferroportin. Many patients, however, present with both ACD and iron deficiency anemia (ACD/IDA), the latter resulting from chronic blood loss. We used a rat model of ACD resulting from chronic arthritis and mimicked ACD/IDA by additional phlebotomy to define differing iron-regulatory pathways. Iron retention during inflammation occurs in macrophages and the spleen, but not in the liver. In rats and humans with ACD, serum hepcidin concentrations are elevated, which is paralleled by reduced duodenal and macrophage expression of ferroportin. Individuals with ACD/IDA have significantly lower hepcidin levels than ACD subjects, and ACD/IDA persons, in contrast to ACD subjects, were able to absorb dietary iron from the gut and to mobilize iron from macrophages. Circulating hepcidin levels affect iron traffic in ACD and ACD/IDA and are more responsive to the erythropoietic demands for iron than to inflammation. Hepcidin determination may aid to differentiate between ACD and ACD/IDA and in selecting appropriate therapy for these patients.
Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL/Lipocalin-2/Lcn-2) is a 25kDa protein which is involved in host defence against certain Gram negative bacteria upon binding of iron loaded bacterial siderophores thereby limiting the availability of this essential nutrient to bacteria resulting in inhibition of their growth and pathogenicity. As iron is important for the growth of the intracellular bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae we questioned whether Lcn-2 affects the course of this infection. We employed primary peritoneal macrophages obtained from wildtype and Lcn-2 -/- mice and RAW 264.7 cells which were infected with C. pneumoniae. In addition, we studied C. pneumoniae multiplication in vivo in mice receiving diets with varying iron contents. We analyzed C. pneumoniae numbers by immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR and studied the expression of iron metabolism and cytokine genes by RT-PCR, Western blot or ELISA. Infection with Chlamydiae ex vivo and in vivo revealed a significantly higher bacterial growth in peritoneal macrophages of Lcn-2 -/- than of wildtype mice. These differences were significantly more pronounced upon iron challenge, which stimulated bacterial growth. Accordingly, treatment with an anti-Lnc-2 antibody increased whereas addition of recombinant Lcn-2 reduced bacterial growth in infected macrophages. When investigating the underlying mechanisms we observed partly different expression of several iron metabolism genes between Lcn-2 +/+ and Lcn-2 -/- macrophages and most strikingly an increased formation of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 by Lcn-2 -/- macrophages. Upon treatment with an anti-IL10 antibody we experienced a significant increase of Chlamydial growth within Lcn-2 -/- macrophages along with a reduction of the major iron storage protein ferritin. Herein we provide first time evidence that Lcn-2 is involved in host defence against Chlamydia presumably by limiting the availability of iron to the pathogen. In the absence of Lcn-2, increased formation of IL-10 exerts protective effects by increasing the intracellular formation of ferritin, thereby reducing the access of iron for bacteria.
Attraction of neutrophils to sites of infection or tissue injury is an essential prerequisite for an efficient innate immune response. Herein, we provide novel evidence that the antimicrobial protein, neutrophil gelatinase associated lipocalin (24p3 or lipocalin-2, Lcn2) is a central regulator of this process. Lcn2 is produced by several cell types but high amounts are released by neutrophils. Using human and murine neutrophils, we found that the addition of recombinant Lcn2 significantly stimulated their migration, which was independent of IL-8/keratinocyte chemokine formation. Mechanistically, this could be traced back to Lcn2-mediated changes of Erk1/2 signaling. Accordingly, the i.p. injection of Lcn2 into C57BL/6 mice stimulated the mobilization of neutrophils while we found a significantly reduced neutrophil chemotactic activity of cells obtained from Lcn2 KO mice. This observation transmitted to a reduced accumulation of neutrophils in intra-dermal lesions infected with Salmonella typhimurium in Lcn2 KO mice as compared to WT mice. This was not only due to a reduced chemotaxis but also to an impaired cellular adhesion of neutrophils in the absence of Lcn2. We herein describe a novel role of Lcn2 as an important paracrine chemoattractant and an indispensable factor for neutrophil function in inflammation.
The expression of the cation transporter Nramp1 (Slc11a1) in late phagolysosomes confers resistance to infection with several intracellular pathogens, such as Salmonella enterica, in mice. The antimicrobial actions of Nramp1 are attributable, in part, to modulation of macrophage immune function and cellular iron metabolism--the latter affecting the availability of the essential nutrient iron for intraphagosomal bacteria. Here, we provide novel evidence that Nramp1 functionality increases the expression of the peptide Lcn2, which exerts its antimicrobial activity by scavenging iron-loaded bacterial siderophores and mediating iron efflux from macrophages. With the use of macrophage cell lines expressing functional or nonfunctional Nramp1, we found significantly elevated Lcn2 mRNA and protein levels in Nramp1-expressing cells. These resulted from Nramp1-mediated alterations in the production of ROS, which stimulated NF-? B activity and subsequently, Lcn2 transcription. We observed that increased Lcn2 levels in primary Nramp1-positive macrophages resulted in a significant suppression of S. enterica serovar typhimurium growth. Stimulation of Lcn2 expression is a novel mechanism by which Nramp1 confers resistance against infection with the intracellular bacterium S. typhimurium.
Obesity is often associated with disorders of iron homeostasis; however, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. Hepcidin is a key regulator of iron metabolism and may be responsible for obesity-driven iron deficiency. Herein, we used an animal model of diet-induced obesity to study high-fat-diet-induced changes in iron homeostasis. C57BL/6 mice were fed a standard (SD) or high-fat diet (HFD) for 8 weeks, and in addition, half of the mice received high dietary iron (Fe+) for the last 2 weeks. Surprisingly, HFD led to systemic iron deficiency which was traced back to reduced duodenal iron absorption. The mRNA and protein expressions of the duodenal iron transporters Dmt1 and Tfr1 were significantly higher in HFD- than in SD-fed mice, indicating enterocyte iron deficiency, whereas the mRNA levels of the duodenal iron oxidoreductases Dcytb and hephaestin were lower in HFD-fed mice. Neither hepatic and adipose tissue nor serum hepcidin concentrations differed significantly between SD- and HFD-fed mice, whereas dietary iron supplementation resulted in increased hepatic hepcidin mRNA expression and serum hepcidin levels in SD as compared to HFD mice. Our study suggests that HFD results in iron deficiency which is neither due to intake of energy-dense nutrient poor food nor due to increased sequestration in the reticulo-endothelial system but is the consequence of diminished intestinal iron uptake. We found that impaired iron absorption is independent of hepcidin but rather results from reduced metal uptake into the mucosa and discordant oxidoreductases expressions despite enterocyte iron deficiency.
The outcome of an infection depends on the balance between host resistance and bacterial virulence. Here, we show that the late endosomal adaptor p14 (also known as LAMTOR2) is one of the components for cellular host defense against the intracellular pathogen Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. During Salmonella infection, the complex of p14 and MP1 is required for the accurately timed transport of Salmonella through the endolysosomal system. Loss of p14 opens a time window that allows Salmonella to populate a replication niche, in which early and late antimicrobial effector systems, comprising NADPH phagocytic oxidase and inducible nitric oxide synthase, respectively, are inappropriately activated. Thus, p14 supports the accurate transport of Salmonella through the endolysosomal system, thereby limiting bacterial replication in both, professional phagocytes and in non-phagocytic cells in vitro, and helps mice to successfully battle Salmonella infection in vivo.
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