Author(s): Calandra T
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Among innate immune cells, macrophages play an essential role in the sensing and elimination of invasive microorganisms. Binding of microbial products to pathogen-recognition receptors stimulates macrophages to release cytokines and other effector molecules that orchestrate the host innate and adaptive immune responses. Recently, the protein known as macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) has emerged as a pivotal mediator of innate immunity. First identified as a T-cell cytokine, MIF was rediscovered as a protein released by pituitary cells after exposure to endotoxin [lipopolysaccharide (LPS)] or bacteria and in response to stress. Monocytes, macrophages and lymphocytes constitutively express MIF, which is rapidly released after stimulation with bacterial endotoxins and exotoxins, and cytokines. MIF induces powerful proinflammatory biological responses and has been shown to be an important effector molecule of septic shock. High levels of MIF have been detected in the circulation of patients with severe sepsis and septic shock. Inhibition of MIF activity with neutralizing anti-MIF antibodies or deletion of the Mif gene led to a marked reduction in cytokine production and protected mice from lethal bacterial sepsis and toxic shock induced by Gram-negative endotoxin or Gram-positive exotoxins. Investigations into the mechanisms whereby MIF modulates innate immune responses to endotoxin and Gram-negative bacteria have shown that MIF up-regulates the expression of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4), the signal-transducing molecule of the LPS receptor complex. Thus, MIF enables cells, such as the macrophage, that are at the forefront of the host antimicrobial defences, to sense promptly the presence of invading Gram-negative bacteria and mount an innate immune response. Given that it is a pivotal regulator of innate immune responses to bacterial infections, MIF appears to be a perfect target for novel therapeutic interventions in patients with severe sepsis.
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This article was published in Scand J Infect Dis
and referenced in Immunotherapy: Open Access