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In both septic and aseptic inflammation, N-formyl peptides may enter the circulation and induce a systemic inflammatory response syndrome similar to that observed during septic shock. The inflammatory response is brought about by the binding of N-formyl peptide to formyl peptide receptors (FPRs), specific signaling receptors expressed on myeloid as well as non-myeloid cells involved in the inflammatory process. N-formyl peptides conjugated with fluorochromes, such as fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC) are increasingly experimentally used to identify tissues involved in inflammation. Hypothesizing that the process of FITC-conjugation may transfer formyl peptide to a ligand that is efficiently cleared from the circulation by the natural powerful hepatic scavenging regime we studied the biodistribution of intravenously administered FITC-fNLPNTL (Fluorescein-isothiocyanate- N-Formyl-Nle-Leu-Phe-Nle-Tyr-Lys) in mice. Our findings can be summarized as follows: i) In contrast to unconjugated fNLPNTL, FITC-fNLPNTL was rapidly taken up in the liver; ii) Mouse and human liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) and hepatocytes express formyl peptide receptor 1 (FRP1) on both mRNA (PCR) and protein (Western blot) levels; iii) Immunohistochemistry showed that mouse and human liver sections expressed FRP1 in LSECs and hepatocytes; and iv) Uptake of FITC-fNLPNTL could be largely blocked in mouse and human hepatocytes by surplus-unconjugated fNLPNTL, thereby suggesting that the hepatocytes in both species recognized FITC-fNLPNTL and fNLPNTL as indistinguishable ligands. This was in contrast to the mouse and human LSECs, in which the uptake of FITC-fNLPNTL was mediated by both FRP1 and a scavenger receptor, specifically expressed on LSECs. Based on these results we conclude that a significant proportion of FITC-fNLPNTL is taken up in LSECs via a scavenger receptor naturally expressed in these cells. This calls for great caution when using FITC-fNLPNTL and other chromogen-conjugated formyl peptides as a probe to identify cells in a liver engaged in inflammation. Moreover, our finding emphasizes the role of the liver as an important neutralizer of otherwise strong inflammatory signals such as formyl peptides.


Cristina Ionica Øie, Igor Snapkov, Kjetil Elvevold, Baldur Sveinbjørnsson, Bård Smedsrød. FITC Conjugation Markedly Enhances Hepatic Clearance of N-Formyl Peptides. PloS one. 2016;11(8):e0160602

PMID: 27494406

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