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Macrophage Activation: Role of Toll-like Receptors, Nitric Oxide, and Nuclear Factor kappa B

American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education
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  • Teachers' Topics
  • Biology


Macrophages play an important role in host-defense and inflammation. In response to an immune challenge, macrophages become activated and produce proinflammatory mediators that contribute to nonspecific immunity. The mediators released by activated macrophages include: superoxide anion; reactive nitrogen intermediates, such as nitric oxide and peroxynitrite; bioactive lipids; and cytokines. Although essential to the immune response, overproduction of certain macrophage-derived mediators during an immune challenge or inflammatory response can result in tissue injury and cellular death. The present report is focused on understanding some of the molecular mechanisms used by macrophages to produce reactive nitrogen intermediates in response to immunostimulatory agents such as heat shock protein 60 and bacterial lipopolysaccharide. The role of Toll-like receptors and transcription factors such as nuclear factor kappa B (NFκB) in the innate immune response is also described. A basic understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible for macrophage activation should serve as a foundation for novel drug development aimed at modulating macrophage activity.

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