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Front Cell Dev Biol. 2016 Mar 30;4:21. doi: 10.3389/fcell.2016.00021. eCollection 2016.

Induction of Macrophage Function in Human THP-1 Cells Is Associated with Rewiring of MAPK Signaling and Activation of MAP3K7 (TAK1) Protein Kinase.

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Junior Research Group Pathoproteomics, Competence Center Functional Genomics, University of Greifswald Greifswald, Germany.


Macrophages represent the primary human host response to pathogen infection and link the immediate defense to the adaptive immune system. Mature tissue macrophages convert from circulating monocyte precursor cells by terminal differentiation in a process that is not fully understood. Here, we analyzed the protein kinases of the human monocytic cell line THP-1 before and after induction of macrophage differentiation by using kinomics and phosphoproteomics. When comparing the macrophage-like state with the monocytic precursor, 50% of the kinome was altered in expression and even 71% of covered kinase phosphorylation sites were affected. Kinome rearrangements are for example characterized by a shift of overrepresented cyclin-dependent kinases associated with cell cycle control in monocytes to calmodulin-dependent kinases and kinases involved in proinflammatory signaling. Eventually, we show that monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation is associated with major rewiring of mitogen-activated protein kinase signaling networks and demonstrate that protein kinase MAP3K7 (TAK1) acts as the key signaling hub in bacterial killing, chemokine production and differentiation. Our study proves the fundamental role of protein kinases and cellular signaling as major drivers of macrophage differentiation and function. The finding that MAP3K7 is central to macrophage function suggests MAP3K7 and its networking partners as promising targets in host-directed therapy for macrophage-associated disease.


THP-1 cells; chemical proteomics; kinome; kinomics; monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation; phosphoproteome; signaling

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