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J Immunol. 2013 Jun 1;190(11):5640-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1202270. Epub 2013 Apr 22.

The scavenger receptor CD36 downmodulates the early inflammatory response while enhancing bacterial phagocytosis during pneumococcal pneumonia.

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Research Center for Molecular Medicine of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, 1090 Vienna, Austria.


CD36 is a scavenger receptor that exhibits pleiotropic functions, including adhesion to thrombospondin, inhibition of angiogenesis, transport of long-chain fatty acids, and clearance of apoptotic cells. In addition, it has been implicated in the host immune response because it acts as a coreceptor for TLR2 and plays a role in Staphylococcus aureus infection. However, its role in other Gram-positive bacterial infections is unclear. In this study, using mice deficient in CD36, we sought to examine the role of CD36 in pneumococcal pneumonia, a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. We show that CD36 is expressed on both alveolar macrophages and respiratory epithelial cells. Early in infection, CD36(-/-) mice have an exaggerated inflammatory response compared with wild-type littermate controls. In vitro studies using CD36(-/-) primary cells confirm the enhanced early inflammation in response to S. pneumoniae and its lipoteichoic acid, demonstrate that S. pneumoniae binds to cells via its phosphocholine residues, and suggest a role for CD36 in reducing inflammation induced by the phosphocholine residues of pneumococcal lipoteichoic acid. Later in infection, although CD36(-/-) mice exhibit impaired bacterial clearance, owing to a decreased capacity of CD36(-/-) macrophages to phagocytose S. pneumoniae, minor effects on mortality occur, in comparison with those in wild-type littermate control mice. These data show that CD36 contributes to the pulmonary host response during S. pneumoniae infection by virtue of its ability to act as a phagocytic receptor and as a modulator of the early innate immune response.

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