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Centre for Infection and Inflammation Research, School of Medical Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.


The calgranulins are a subgroup of proteins in the S100 family (calgranulin A, S100A8; calgranulin B, S100A9 and calgranulin C, S100A12) that provide protective anti-infective and anti-inflammatory functions for the mammalian host. In this review, we discuss the structure-function relationships whereby S100A8 and S100A9, and for comparison, S100A12, provide intra- and extracellular protection during the complex interplay between infection and inflammation and how the calgranulins are regulated to optimally protect the host. Ideally located to support epithelial barrier function, calprotectin, a complex of S100A8/S100A9, is expressed in squamous mucosal keratinocytes and innate immune cells present at mucosal surfaces. The calgranulins are also abundantly produced in neutrophils and monocytes, whereas expression is induced in epidermal keratinocytes, gastrointestinal epithelial cells and fibroblasts during inflammation. The calgranulins show species-specific expression and function. For example, S100A8 is chemotactic in rodents but not in humans. In humans, S100A12 appears to serve as a functional chemotactic homolog to murine S100A8. Transition metal-binding and oxidation sites within calgranulins are able to create structural changes that may orchestrate new protective functions or binding targets. The calgranulins thus appear to adopt a variety of roles to protect the host. In addition to serving as a leukocyte chemoattractant, protective functions include oxidant scavenging, antimicrobial activity, and chemokine-like activities. Each function may reflect the concentration of the calgranulin, post-transcriptional modifications, oligomeric forms, and the proximal intracellular or extracellular environments. Calprotectin and the calgranulins are remarkable as multifunctional proteins dedicated to protecting the intra- and extracellular environments during infection and inflammation.


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