Rat C-reactive protein (CRP) is a serum glycoprotein belonging to the ‘pentraxin’ family of proteins. In this study we have shown the specific binding of 125I-CRP to rat peritoneal macrophages at 4 degrees C. This binding was dependent upon incubation time, CRP and cell concentrations, and was not inhibited by either phosphorylcholine or human IgG. At 37 degrees C, the surface-bound 125I-CRP was internalized and degraded. The degradation of 125I-CRP was measured by the formation of 125I-labelled trichloroacetic-acid-soluble CRP peptides by either precipitation assays or by h.p.l.c. of the incubation medium using a gel-filtration column. Since chloroquine and leupeptin inhibited CRP degradation, it was concluded that degradation of CRP occurred in the lysosomal compartment of the macrophage. There was an absolute requirement for the presence of bivalent cations (Ca2+ and Mg2+) in the incubation medium for the binding and degradation of CRP, which could be inhibited by EDTA but not by phosphorylcholine or human IgG. H.p.l.c. analysis of the medium obtained from incubation of macrophages with 125I-CRP revealed the presence of 125I-labelled low-M(r) peptides, the formation of which was dependent upon incubation time.

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