Uptake of lactoferrin by mononuclear phagocytes inhibits their ability to form hydroxyl radical and protects them from membrane autoperoxidation

B. E. Britigan, J. S. Serody, M. B. Hayek, L. M. Charniga, M. S. Cohen

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50 Scopus citations


Human mononuclear phagocytes do not contain the iron-binding protein lactoferrin that we have previously demonstrated inhibits the potential for human neutrophils to generate hydroxyl radical in the presence of an exogenous iron catalyst of the Haber-Weiss reaction. Previous work by other investigators has suggested that mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM)) have the capacity to bind exogenous lactoferrin via lactoferrin-specific membrane surface receptors. Accordingly, we examined the possibility that uptake of iron-free (apo) lactoferrin by human mononuclear phagocytes could play a role in limiting the potential for generation of hydroxyl radical during the monocyte/MDM respiratory burst. When monocytes or MDM were incubated in the presence of apo-lactoferrin, cell-associated lactoferrin increased in proportion to the concentration of lactoferrin provided. Similar results were obtained with iron-loaded (diferric) milk lactoferrin. Consistent with the in vivo importance of these findings, we found that lactoferrin was intimately associated with human alveolar macrophages obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage. The fucose polymer fucoidan inhibited lactoferrin uptake whereas exogenous transferrin or MDM exposure to IFN-γ was without effect. Scatchard binding analysis confirmed the presence of a lactoferrin-specific receptor with a calculated kDa of 3.56 x 10-6 M and 3.4 x 107 binding sites per cell. Subcellular fractionation studies indicated that twofold more of the lactoferrin which became cell- associated over the 1-h incubation time could be found in the cytoplasmic fraction compared to the plasma membrane-containing fraction, consistent with previous evidence by others for internalization of lactoferrin by mononuclear phagocytes. When lactoferrin-loaded monocytes/MDM were incubated in lactoferrin-free media, evidence for release of lactoferrin was obtained by SDS-PAGE and immunoblot analysis, suggesting the presence of a recyclable pool of cell-associated lactoferrin. To assess the impact of lactoferrin loading on monocyte/MDM hydroxyl radical formation, lactoferrin-loaded phagocytes were stimulated with PMA in the presence of catalytic iron. Hydroxyl radical generation by lactoferrin-loaded cells was decreased to about 50% of control cells. Similarly, monocytes that had been lactoferrin- loaded demonstrated a 28% decrease in autooxidation of their membrane when stimulated in the presence of catalytic iron. These data suggest that lactoferrin binding may play an important role in maintaining optimal mononuclear phagocyte function and protecting adjacent tissue from untoward phagocyte-associated hydroxyl radical generation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4271-4277
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology

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