Cell-free hemoglobin triggers macrophage cytokine production via TLR4 and MyD88.


Cell-free hemoglobin (CFH) is elevated in the airspace of patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and is sufficient to cause acute lung injury in a murine model. However, the pathways through which CFH causes lung injury are not well understood. Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) is a mediator of inflammation after detection of damage- and pathogen-associated molecular patterns. We hypothesized that TLR4 signaling mediates the proinflammatory effects of CFH in the airspace. After intratracheal CFH, BALBc mice deficient in TLR4 had reduced inflammatory cell influx into the airspace [bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) cell counts, median TLR4 knockout (KO): 0.8 × 10/mL [IQR 0.4-1.2 × 10/mL], wild-type (WT): 3.0 × 10/mL [2.2-4.0 × 10/mL], 0.001] and attenuated lung permeability (BAL protein, TLR4KO: 289 µg/mL [236-320], WT: 488 µg/mL [422-536], 0.001). These mice also had attenuated production of interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α in the airspace. C57Bl/6 mice lacking TLR4 on myeloid cells only (LysM.CreTLR4) had reduced cytokine production in the airspace after CFH, without attenuation of lung permeability. In vitro studies confirm that WT primary murine alveolar macrophages exposed to CFH (0.01-1 mg/mL) had dose-dependent increases in IL-6, IL-1 β, CXC motif chemokine ligand 1 (CXCL-1), TNF-α, and IL-10 ( 0.001). Murine MH-S alveolar-like macrophages show TLR4-dependent expression of IL-1β, IL-6, and CXCL-1 in response to CFH. Primary alveolar macrophages from mice lacking TLR4 adaptor proteins myeloid differentiation primary response 88 (MyD88) or TIR-domain-containing adapter-inducing interferon-β (TRIF) revealed that MyD88KO macrophages had 71-96% reduction in CFH-dependent proinflammatory cytokine production ( 0.001), whereas macrophages from TRIFKO mice had variable changes in cytokine responses. These data demonstrate that myeloid TLR4 signaling through MyD88 is a key regulator of airspace inflammation in response to CFH. Cell-free hemoglobin (CFH) is elevated in the airspace of most patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome and causes severe inflammation. Here, we identify that CFH contributes to macrophage-induced cytokine production via Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and myeloid differentiation primary response 88 (MyD88) signaling. These data increase our knowledge of the mechanisms through which CFH contributes to lung injury and may inform development of targeted therapeutics to attenuate inflammation.