Maspin inhibits macrophage phagocytosis and enhances inflammatory cytokine production via activation of NF-κB signaling

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Maspin (mammary serine protease inhibitor) is a non-inhibitory member of the serine protease inhibitor superfamily and a tumor suppressor in several cancers due to its ability to inhibit cell invasion, angiogenesis, and promote apoptosis. However, its immunomodulatory function remains largely unexplored. Thus, we explored the potential link between Maspin and macrophage function, first evaluating the regulatory effects of conditioned medium (CM) of a Maspin-overexpressing CHO cell strain on mouse peritoneal macrophage phagocytosis and cytokine secretion. Next, we used a transwell co-culture system and recombinant Maspin (rMaspin) to confirm the effects of Maspin on macrophages, and attempted to clarify the underlying mechanisms. We found that irrespective of CM, rMaspin or co-culture of Maspin-overexpressing cells with macrophages impaired macrophages phagocytosing Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Furthermore, q-RT-PCR or ELISA confirmed increased IL-1β, TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-6, IL-12, IL-10, and M1 marker iNOS production in macrophages after Maspin stimulation, but TGF-β and M2 marker Arg-1 production were suppressed. Western blot showed activated NF-κB signaling in Maspin-stimulated macrophages; upregulated cytokines were lowered, and impaired phagocytosis recovered after blocking NF-κB signaling with PDTC. Thus, Maspin mildly inhibited phagocytic activity, but markedly enhanced inflammatory cytokine production and likely skewed macrophages towards M1 polarization, partially due to activation of NF-κB signaling. These results reveal a novel biological function of Maspin in modulating macrophage activity and may open a new avenue for Maspin-based tumor therapy.

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