The mitochondrion is a major organelle contributing to energy metabolism but also a main site of ROS (reactive oxygen species) production. LPS (lipopolysaccharide)-induced ROS signalling is a critical event in macrophage activation. In the present paper we report that part of LPS-mediated ROS signalling comes from mitochondria inside a signal amplification loop that enhances MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinase) activation. More precisely, we have identified the inner mitochondrial membrane UCP2 (uncoupling protein 2) as a physiological brake on ROS signalling. Stimulation of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages by LPS quickly down-regulated UCP2 through the JNK (c-Jun N-terminal kinase) and p38 pathways. UCP2 down-regulation was shown to be necessary to increase mitochondrial ROS production in order to potentiate MAPK activation. Consistent with this, UCP2-deficient macrophages exhibit an enhanced inflammatory state characterized by increased nitric oxide production and elevated migration ability. Additionally, we found that the absence of UCP2 renders macrophages more resistant to nitric oxide-induced apoptosis.

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