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J Biol Chem. 1999 May 14;274(20):13993-8.

Membrane expression of soluble endotoxin-binding proteins permits lipopolysaccharide signaling in Chinese hamster ovary fibroblasts independently of CD14.

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  • 1The Maxwell Finland Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts 02118, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Biol Chem 1999 Jul 23;274(30):21490.


The activation of phagocytes by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Gram-negative sepsis. Although the interaction between CD14 and LPS is a key event in the signaling cascade, the molecular mechanism by which cellular activation occurs remains obscure. We hypothesized that the main function of CD14 was to bind LPS and transfer it to a second receptor, which then initiates the subsequent signal for cellular activation. Thus, surface binding of LPS to the cell membrane would be the critical step that CD14 carries out. To test this hypothesis, we examined the activity of two other proteins known to bind LPS, lipopolysaccharide-binding protein and bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein. We found that when these normally soluble proteins were expressed in Chinese hamster ovary-K1 fibroblasts as glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, both could substitute for CD14 in initiating LPS signaling. Pharmacological studies with synthetic lipid A analogues demonstrated that these surface expressed LPS-binding proteins had characteristics that were qualitatively identical to membrane CD14. These data support the hypothesis that a receptor distinct from CD14 functions as the actual signal transducer and suggest that surface binding of LPS to the cell membrane is the crucial first step for initiating downstream signaling events.

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