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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1994 Mar 1;91(5):1863-7.

The type I macrophage scavenger receptor binds to gram-positive bacteria and recognizes lipoteichoic acid.

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Department of Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT 06510.


Macrophage scavenger receptors exhibit unusually broad binding specificity for polyanionic ligands and have been implicated in atherosclerosis and various host defense functions. Using a radiolabeled, secreted form of the type I bovine macrophage scavenger receptor in an in vitro binding assay, we have found that this receptor binds to intact Gram-positive bacteria, including Streptococcus pyogenes, Streptococcus agalactiae, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus hirae, and Listeria monocytogenes. Competition binding studies using purified lipoteichoic acid, an anionic polymer expressed on the surface of most Gram-positive bacteria, show that lipoteichoic acids are scavenger receptor ligands and probably mediate binding of the receptor to Gram-positive bacteria. Lipoteichoic acids, for which no host cell receptors have previously been identified, are implicated in the pathogenesis of septic shock due to Gram-positive bacteria. Scavenger receptors may participate in host defense by clearing lipoteichoic acid and/or intact bacteria from tissues and the circulation during Gram-positive sepsis. Since scavenger receptors have been previously shown to bind to and facilitate bloodstream clearance of Gram-negative bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide), these receptors may provide a general mechanism for macrophage recognition and internalization of pathogens and their cell surface components.

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