Differential binding of inorganic particles to MARCO

Sheetal A. Thakur, Raymond Hamilton, Timo Pikkarainen, Andrij Holian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Alveolar macrophages (AM) in the lung have been documented to play pivotal roles in inflammation and fibrosis (silicosis) following inhalation of crystalline silica (CSiO2). In contrast, exposure to either titanium dioxide (TiO2) or amorphous silica (ASiO2) is considered relatively benign. The scavenger receptor macrophage receptor with collagenous structure (MARCO), expressed on AM, binds and internalizes environmental particles such as silica and TiO2. Only CSiO2 is toxic to AM, while ASiO2 and TiO2 are not. We hypothesize that differences in induction of pathology between toxic CSiO2 and nontoxic particles ASiO2 and TiO2 may be related to their differential binding to MARCO. In vitro studies with Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells transfected with human MARCO and mutants were conducted to better characterize MARCO-particulate (ASiO2, CSiO2, and TiO2) interactions. Results with MARCO-transfected CHO cells and MARCO-specific antibody demonstrated that the scavenger receptor cysteine-rich (SRCR) domain of MARCO was required for particle binding for all the tested particles. Only TiO2 required divalent cations (viz., Ca+2 and/or Mg+2) for binding to MARCO, and results from competitive binding studies supported the notion that TiO2 and both the silica particles bound to different motifs in SRCR domain of MARCO. The results also suggest that particle shape and/or crystal structure may be the determinants linking particle binding to MARCO and cytotoxicity. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the SRCR domain of MARCO is required for particle binding and that involvement of different regions of SRCR domain may distinguish downstream events following particle binding.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-246
Number of pages9
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


  • Amorphous silica
  • Apoptosis
  • Binding
  • Crystalline silica
  • TiO


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