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Front Immunol. 2018 Jun 12;9:1351. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.01351. eCollection 2018.

Dissociation of C-Reactive Protein Localizes and Amplifies Inflammation: Evidence for a Direct Biological Role of C-Reactive Protein and Its Conformational Changes.

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Atherothrombosis and Vascular Biology Laboratory, Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Department of Clinical Haematology, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Australian Centre for Blood Diseases, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery, University of Freiburg Medical Centre, Medical Faculty of the University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany.
College of Pharmacy, Roosevelt University, Schaumburg, IL, United States.
Heart Centre, The Alfred Hospital, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
Department of Immunology, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


C-reactive protein (CRP) is a member of the pentraxin superfamily that is widely recognized as a marker of inflammatory reactions and cardiovascular risk in humans. Recently, a growing body of data is emerging, which demonstrates that CRP is not only a marker of inflammation but also acts as a direct mediator of inflammatory reactions and the innate immune response. Here, we critically review the various lines of evidence supporting the concept of a pro-inflammatory "CRP system." The CRP system consists of a functionally inert circulating pentameric form (pCRP), which is transformed to its highly pro-inflammatory structural isoforms, pCRP* and ultimately to monomeric CRP (mCRP). While retaining an overall pentameric structure, pCRP* is structurally more relaxed than pCRP, thus exposing neoepitopes important for immune activation and complement fixation. Thereby, pCRP* shares its pro-inflammatory properties with the fully dissociated structural isoform mCRP. The dissociation of pCRP into its pro-inflammatory structural isoforms and thus activation of the CRP system occur on necrotic, apoptotic, and ischemic cells, regular β-sheet structures such as β-amyloid, the membranes of activated cells (e.g., platelets, monocytes, and endothelial cells), and/or the surface of microparticles, the latter by binding to phosphocholine. Both pCRP* and mCRP can cause activation of platelets, leukocytes, endothelial cells, and complement. The localization and deposition of these pro-inflammatory structural isoforms of CRP in inflamed tissue appear to be important mediators for a range of clinical conditions, including ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury of various organs, cardiovascular disease, transplant rejection, Alzheimer's disease, and age-related macular degeneration. These findings provide the impetus to tackle the vexing problem of innate immunity response by targeting CRP. Understanding the "activation process" of CRP will also likely allow the development of novel anti-inflammatory drugs, thereby providing potential new immunomodulatory therapeutics in a broad range of inflammatory diseases.


Alzheimer disease; C-reactive protein; cardiovascular diseases; inflammation; ischemia/reperfusion

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