Cellular acid–base status has been found to exert selective actions on the effector functions of activated macrophages (mϕ). We examined the effects of extracellular pH (pHo) on the production of tumour necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in resident alveolar mϕ. Cells were obtained by bronchoalveolar lavage of rabbits, activated in vitro with LPS, and cultured at pHo 5.5, 6.5 or 7.4 for up to 18 h. The relative abundance of TNF-α mRNA peaked at ~ 2 h. The peak transcript abundance was increased at lower pHo values. This finding probably reflected pre-transcription/transcription effects of pH, in as much as the stability of TNF-α mRNA induced with phorbol ester was unaffected by the experimental pHo values. TNF-α secretion by LPS-treated mϕ decreased at lower pHo values. The TNF-α content of mϕ-conditioned media decreased progressively with decrements in pHo. The reduced TNF-α secretion at pHo 5.5 was accompanied by an increase in the cytosolic TNF-α content (compared with that at pHo 7.4), indicating that pHo altered TNF-α secretion due, in part, to the intracellular retention of synthesized cytokine (i.e. a post-translation effect). The data show that pHo has multiple effects (pre-transcription/transcription and post-translation) on TNF-α production induced by LPS in resident alveolar mϕ. These results suggest that the role of alveolar mϕ in inflammatory responses is modulated by pHo, which may be important in tumours/abscesses and sites of infection where the external milieu is acidic.

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