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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e30077. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0030077. Epub 2012 Jan 10.

Elevation in body temperature to fever range enhances and prolongs subsequent responsiveness of macrophages to endotoxin challenge.

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  • 1Department of Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, New York, United States of America.


Macrophages are often considered the sentries in innate immunity, sounding early immunological alarms, a function which speeds the response to infection. Compared to the large volume of studies on regulation of macrophage function by pathogens or cytokines, relatively little attention has been devoted to the role of physical parameters such as temperature. Given that temperature is elevated during fever, a long-recognized cardinal feature of inflammation, it is possible that macrophage function is responsive to thermal signals. To explore this idea, we used LPS to model an aseptic endotoxin-induced inflammatory response in BALB/c mice and found that raising mouse body temperature by mild external heat treatment significantly enhances subsequent LPS-induced release of TNF-α into the peritoneal fluid. It also reprograms macrophages, resulting in sustained subsequent responsiveness to LPS, i.e., this treatment reduces "endotoxin tolerance" in vitro and in vivo. At the molecular level, elevating body temperature of mice results in a increase in LPS-induced downstream signaling including enhanced phosphorylation of IKK and IκB, NF-κB nuclear translocation and binding to the TNF-α promoter in macrophages upon secondary stimulation. Mild heat treatment also induces expression of HSP70 and use of HSP70 inhibitors (KNK437 or Pifithrin-µ) largely abrogates the ability of the thermal treatment to enhance TNF-α, suggesting that the induction of HSP70 is important for mediation of thermal effects on macrophage function. Collectively, these results support the idea that there has been integration between the evolution of body temperature regulation and macrophage function that could help to explain the known survival benefits of fever in organisms following infection.

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