CD147, as a cellular receptor for cyclophilin A (CypA), is a multifunctional protein involved in tumor invasion, inflammation, tissue remodeling, neural function, and reproduction. Recent observations showing the expression of CD147 in leukocytes indicate that this molecule may have roles in inflammation.
In order to investigate the role of CD147 and its ligand in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, human atherosclerotic plaques were analyzed for the expression pattern of CD147 and CypA. The cellular responses and signaling molecules activated by the stimulation of CD147 were then investigated in the human macrophage cell line, THP-1, which expresses high basal level of CD147 on the cell surface.
Staining of both CD147 and CypA was detected in endothelial cell layers facing the lumen and macrophage-rich areas. Stimulation of CD147 with its specific monoclonal antibody induced the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-9 in THP-1 cells and it was suppressed by inhibitors of both ERK and NF-κB. Accordingly, the stimulation of CD147 was observed to induce phosphorylation of ERK, phosphorylation-associated degradation of IκB, and nuclear translocation of NF-κB p65 and p50 subunits.
These results suggest that CD147 mediates the inflammatory activation of macrophages that leads to the induction of MMP-9 expression, which could play a role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases such as atherosclerosis.