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J Clin Invest. 1992 Apr;89(4):1322-30.

Interferon-gamma inhibits scavenger receptor expression and foam cell formation in human monocyte-derived macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Gothenburg University Sahlgren's Hospital, Sweden.


The scavenger receptor (ScR) mediates uptake of chemically modified low density lipoprotein (LDL) by human monocyte-derived macrophages. It is not down-regulated by high intracellular cholesterol levels, and exposure of macrophages to acetylated or oxidized LDL therefore leads to foam cell development. The hypothesis that this represents an important mechanism for intracellular cholesterol accumulation in atherosclerosis is supported by the finding of ScR expression in foam cells of atherosclerotic plaques. T lymphocytes are also present in such plaques and it is known that T cell products regulate macrophage activation. We have therefore studied the effect of interferon-gamma (IFN gamma), a lymphokine secreted by activated T lymphocytes, on the expression of ScR in human monocyte-derived macrophages. Binding and uptake of acetylated LDL were significantly reduced in macrophages exposed to recombinant IFN gamma or IFN gamma-containing lymphocyte-conditioned media. Competition experiments showed that the IFN gamma-regulated binding and uptake of acetylated LDL was mediated via ScR. IFN gamma exerted its effect on the saturable binding of acetylated LDL by reducing the number of cell surface binding sites without significantly affecting the affinity between acetylated LDL and its receptor. Northern analysis revealed that the type I ScR mRNA was significantly reduced in IFN gamma-treated cells. Finally, IFN gamma treatment reduced intracellular cholesteryl ester accumulation and inhibited the development of foam cells in the cultures. In conclusion, our data show that IFN gamma blocks the development of macrophage-derived foam cells by inhibiting expression of ScR. This suggests that macrophage-T lymphocyte interactions may reduce intracellular cholesterol accumulation in the atherosclerotic plaque.

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