Extracellular cold-inducible RNA-binding protein (eCIRP) is a damage-associated molecular pattern, whose effect on macrophages is not entirely elucidated. Here we identified that eCIRP promotes macrophage endotoxin tolerance. Septic mice had higher serum levels of eCIRP; this was associated with a reduced ex vivo immune response of their splenocytes to LPS. Pretreatment of macrophages with recombinant murine CIRP (rmCIRP) resulted in a tolerance to LPS stimulation as demonstrated by a reduction of TNF-α production. We found that eCIRP increased phosphorylated STAT3 (p-STAT3) in macrophages. A STAT3 inhibitor, Stattic, rescued macrophages from rmCIRP-induced tolerance by restoring the release of TNF-α in response to LPS stimulation. We discovered strong binding affinity between eCIRP and IL-6 receptor (IL-6R) as revealed by Biacore, fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and their colocalization in macrophages by immunostaining assays. Blockade of IL-6R with its neutralizing Ab inhibited eCIRP-induced p-STAT3 and restored LPS-stimulated TNF-α release in macrophages. Incubation of macrophages with rmCIRP skewed them toward an M2 phenotype, while treatment with anti–IL-6R Ab prevented rmCIRP-induced M2 polarization. Thus, we have demonstrated that eCIRP activates p-STAT3 via a novel receptor, IL-6R, to promote macrophage endotoxin tolerance. Targeting eCIRP appears to be a new therapeutic option to correct immune tolerance in sepsis.


Mian Zhou, Monowar Aziz, Naomi-Liza Denning, Hao-Ting Yen, Gaifeng Ma, Ping Wang


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