Polarization of Low-Grade Inflammatory Monocytes Through TRAM-Mediated Up-Regulation of Keap1 by Super-Low Dose Endotoxin
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Subclinical endotoxemia [low levels of bacterial endotoxin (LPS) in the blood stream] has been correlated with chronic inflammatory diseases, with less-understood mechanisms. We have previously shown that chronic exposure to super low doses of LPS polarizes monocytes/macrophages to a pro-inflammatory state characterized by up-regulation of pro-inflammatory regulators such as p62 and simultaneous down-regulation of anti-inflammatory/resolving regulators such as Nrf2. Building upon this observation, here we show that chronic exposure to super-low doses of LPS leads to accumulation of the Nrf2-inhibitory protein Keap1 in murine monocytes. This is accompanied by increases of p62 and MLKL, consistent with a disruption of autolysosome function in polarized monocytes challenged by super-low dose LPS. Monocytes subjected to persistent super-low dose LPS challenge also accumulate higher levels of IKK beta. As a consequence, SLD-LPS challenge leads to an inflammatory monocyte state represented by higher expression of the inflammatory marker Ly6C as well as lower expression of the anti-inflammatory marker CD200R. Further analysis revealed that Keap1 levels are significantly enriched in the Ly6C(hi)pro-inflammatory monocyte population. Finally, we show that the TLR4 signaling adaptor TRAM is essential for these effects. Together our study provides novel insight into signaling mechanisms behind low-grade inflammatory monocyte polarization unique to chronic super-low dose LPS exposure.