European journal of pharmacology

Carbocisteine promotes phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by alveolar macrophages.

PMID 22222820


Clearance of apoptotic cells, so-called efferocytosis, by alveolar macrophages (AMs) is important for lung homeostasis and is impaired in pulmonary inflammatory diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma. Carbocisteine, a mucoregulatory drug, corrects the contents of fucose in airway mucus and has anti-inflammatory properties in airway inflammation. Thus, we conducted the present study to better understand the anti-inflammatory properties of carbocisteine. First, we induced airway inflammation in mice with lipopolysaccharide intratracheally. Carbocisteine significantly decreased neutrophil numbers in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid at the resolution phase of inflammation, implying the promotion of neutrophil clearance. Then, we investigated whether carbocisteine would enhance the efferocytosis by AMs isolated from mice and found that this drug promoted not only the phagocytosis but also the binding of apoptotic cells to AMs in vitro. Furthermore, carbocisteine decreased the fucose residues stained with fluorescent fucose-binding lectin, Lens culinaris agglutinin, on the cell surface of AMs. We found here that removing fucose residues from cell surfaces of AMs by fucosidase markedly enhanced both the binding and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. Finally, AMs from mice orally given carbocisteine also promoted both the binding and phagocytosis ex vivo similarly to in vitro. These results suggest that carbocisteine could promote the clearance of apoptotic cells by AMs in airway. In addition, the present findings suggest that the binding and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells may be modulated by fucose residues on the cell surface of AMs.