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J Exp Med. 2011 Jun 6;208(6):1203-14. doi: 10.1084/jem.20102538. Epub 2011 May 30.

Hemophagocytosis causes a consumptive anemia of inflammation.

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  • 1Division of Immunobiology, Department of Pediatrics, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45229, USA.


Cytopenias of uncertain etiology are commonly observed in patients during severe inflammation. Hemophagocytosis, the histological appearance of blood-eating macrophages, is seen in the disorder hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis and other inflammatory contexts. Although it is hypothesized that these phenomena are linked, the mechanisms facilitating acute inflammation-associated cytopenias are unknown. We report that interferon γ (IFN-γ) is a critical driver of the acute anemia observed during diverse microbial infections in mice. Furthermore, systemic exposure to physiologically relevant levels of IFN-γ is sufficient to cause acute cytopenias and hemophagocytosis. Demonstrating the significance of hemophagocytosis, we found that IFN-γ acts directly on macrophages in vivo to alter endocytosis and provoke blood cell uptake, leading to severe anemia. These findings define a unique pathological process of broad clinical and immunological significance, which we term the consumptive anemia of inflammation.

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