Molecular Medicine

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 170–182 | Cite as

MFG-E8 and HMGB1 Are Involved in the Mechanism Underlying Alcohol-Induced Impairment of Macrophage Efferocytosis

  • Xiao Wang
  • Heng-Fu Bu
  • Wei Zhong
  • Akihiro Asai
  • Zhanxiang Zhou
  • Xiao-Di Tan
Research Article


Efferocytosis is a unique phagocytic process for macrophages to remove apoptotic cells in inflammatory loci. This event is maintained by milk fat globule-EGF factor 8 (MFG-E8), but attenuated by high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1). Alcohol abuse causes injury and inflammation in multiple tissues. It alters efferocytosis, but precise molecular mechanisms for this effect remain largely unknown. Here, we showed that acute exposure of macrophages to alcohol (25 mmol/L) inhibited MFG-E8 gene expression and impaired efferocytosis. The effect was mimicked by hydrogen peroxide. Moreover, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a potent antioxidant, blocked acute alcohol effect on inhibition of macrophage MFG-E8 gene expression and efferocytosis. In addition, recombinant MFG-E8 rescued the activity of alcohol-treated macrophages in efferocytosis. Together, the data suggest that acute alcohol exposure impairs macrophage efferocytosis via inhibition of MFG-E8 gene expression through a reactive oxygen species dependent mechanism. Alcohol has been found to suppress or exacerbate immune cell activities depending on the length of alcohol exposure. Thus, we further examined the role of chronic alcohol exposure on macrophage efferocytosis. Interestingly, treatment of macrophages with alcohol for seven days in vitro enhanced MFG-E8 gene expression and efferocytosis. However, chronic feeding of mice with alcohol caused increase in HMGB1 levels in serum. Furthermore, HMGB1 diminished efferocytosis by macrophages that were treated chronically with alcohol, suggesting that HMGB1 might attenuate the direct effect of chronic alcohol on macrophage efferocytosis in vivo. Therefore, we speculated that the balance between MFG-E8 and HMGB1 levels determines pathophysiological effects of chronic alcohol exposure on macrophage efferocytosis in vivo.



This work was supported in part by the Excellence in Academic Medicine Award from Illinois Department of Public Aid (to X-D Tan) and the grants from National Institutes of Health including R21AA020494 (to X-D Tan), R01DK064240 (to X-D Tan) and R01AA020212 (to Z Zhou). Authors thank Michel M Murr for kindly providing the RKC1 cell line.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material, approximately 565 KB.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiao Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Heng-Fu Bu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Zhong
    • 3
  • Akihiro Asai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhanxiang Zhou
    • 3
  • Xiao-Di Tan
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Center for Intestinal and Liver Inflammation Research, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago Research Center, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of MedicineNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Center for Translational Biomedical Research and Department of NutritionUniversity of North Carolina at GreensboroKannapolisUSA

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