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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2011 Nov;301(5):L812-21. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00092.2011. Epub 2011 Aug 26.

Regulation of monocyte subset proinflammatory responses within the lung microvasculature by the p38 MAPK/MK2 pathway.

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Section of Anaesthetics, Pain Medicine and Intensive Care, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Margination and activation of monocytes within the pulmonary microcirculation contribute substantially to the development of acute lung injury in mice. The enhanced LPS-induced TNF expression exhibited by Gr-1(high) compared with Gr-1(low) monocytes within the lung microvasculature suggests differential roles for these subsets. We investigated the mechanisms responsible for such heterogeneity of lung-marginated monocyte proinflammatory response using a combined in vitro and in vivo approach. The monocyte subset inflammatory response was studied in vitro in mouse peripheral blood mononuclear cell-lung endothelial cell coculture and in vivo in a two-hit model of intravenous LPS-induced monocyte margination and lung inflammation in mice, by flow cytometry-based quantification of proinflammatory genes and intracellular phospho-kinases. With LPS stimulation in vitro, TNF expression was consistently higher in Gr-1(high) than Gr-1(low) monocytes, markedly enhanced by coculture with endothelial cells, and abrogated by p38 MAPK inhibitors. Expression of IL-6, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) was only detectable under coculture conditions, was substantially higher in Gr-1(high) monocytes, and was attenuated by p38 inhibition. Consistent with these differential responses, phosphorylation of p38 and its substrate MAPK-activated protein kinase 2 (MK2) was significantly higher in the Gr-1(high) subset. In vivo, p38 inhibitor treatment significantly attenuated LPS-induced TNF expression in "lung-marginated" Gr-1(high) monocytes. LPS-induced p38/MK2 phosphorylation was higher in lung-marginated Gr-1(high) than Gr-1(low) monocytes and neutrophils, mirroring TNF expression. These results indicate that the p38/MK2 pathway is a critical determinant of elevated Gr-1(high) subset responsiveness within the lung microvasculature, producing a coordinated proinflammatory response that places Gr-1(high) monocytes as key orchestrators of pulmonary microvascular inflammation and injury.

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