Malarial pigment (natural haemozoin, HZ) is a ferriprotoporphyrin IX crystal produced by Plasmodium parasites after haemoglobin catabolism. HZ-fed human monocytes are functionally compromised, releasing increased amounts of pro-inflammatory molecules, including cytokines, chemokines and cytokine-related proteolytic enzyme Matrix Metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), whose role in complicated malaria has been recently suggested. In a previous work HZ was shown to induce through TNFalpha production the release of monocytic lysozyme, an enzyme stored in gelatinase granules with MMP-9. Here, the underlying mechanisms were investigated. Results showed that HZ lipid moiety promoted early but not late lysozyme release. HZ-dependent lysozyme induction was abrogated by anti-TNFalpha/IL-1beta/MIP-1alpha blocking antibodies and mimicked by recombinant cytokines. Moreover, HZ early activated either p38 MAPK or NF-kappaB pathways by inducing: p38 MAPK phosphorylation; cytosolic I-kappaB alpha phosphorylation and degradation; NF-kappaB nuclear translocation and DNA-binding. Inhibition of both routes through selected molecules (SB203580, quercetin, artemisinin, parthenolide) prevented HZ-dependent lysozyme release. These data suggest that HZ-triggered overproduction of TNFalpha, IL-1beta and MIP-1alpha mediates induction of lysozyme release from human monocytes through activation of p38 MAPK and NF-kappaB pathways, providing new evidence on mechanisms underlying the HZ-enhanced monocyte degranulation in falciparum malaria and the potential role for lysozyme as a new affordable marker in severe malaria.
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