Background: Inflammation is characterized by dynamic changes in the expression of cytokines, such as M-CSF, and modifications of lipids and proteins that result in the formation of ligands for Class A Scavenger Receptors (SR-A). These changes are associated with altered SR-A expression in macrophages; however, the intracellular signal pathways involved and the extent to which SR-A ligands regulate SR-A expression are not well defined. To address these questions, SR-A expression and function were examined in resident mouse peritoneal macrophages incubated with M-CSF or the selective SR-A ligand acetylated-LDL (AcLDL).Results: M-CSF increased SR-A expression and function, and required the specific activation of p38 MAPK, but not ERK1/2 or JNK. Increased SR-A expression and function returned to basal levels 72 hours after removing M-CSF. We next determined whether prolonged incubation of macrophages with SR-A ligand alters SR-A expression. In contrast to most receptors, which are down-regulated by chronic exposure to ligand, SR-A expression was reversibly increased by incubating macrophages with AcLDL. AcLDL activated p38 in wild-type macrophages but not in SR-A-/- macrophages, and p38 activation was specifically required for AcLDL-induced SR-A expression.Conclusions: These results demonstrate that in resident macrophages SR-A expression and function can be dynamically regulated by changes in the macrophage microenvironment that are typical of inflammatory processes. In particular, our results indicate a previously unrecognized role for ligand binding to SR-A in up-regulating SR-A expression and activating p38 MAPK. In this way, SR-A may modulate inflammatory responses by enhancing macrophage uptake of modified protein/lipid, bacteria, and cell debris; and by regulating the production of inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and proteolytic enzymes.
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