SOCS3 is a modulator of human macrophage phagocytosis

Peter Gordon, Blessing Okai, Joseph I Hoare, Lars P Erwig, Heather M Wilson* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
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Suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins are recognized as key feedback inhibitors modulating the inflammatory activities of macrophages, but comparatively little is known about whether and how they affect phagocytosis. Here, we evaluated the role of SOCS3 in driving the inflammatory phenotype and phagocytic uptake of apoptotic cells by human macrophages and the signaling pathways that are necessary for efficient phagocytosis. In M1-activated human monocyte-derived macrophages, SOCS3 silencing, using short interfering RNA technology, resulted in a decreased expression of proinflammatory markers and an increased expression of M2 macrophage markers. Strikingly, we demonstrated for the first time that SOCS3 knockdown significantly enhances the phagocytic capacity of M1 macrophages for carboxylate-modified beads and apoptotic neutrophils. With the use of live-cell video microscopy, we showed that SOCS3 knockdown radically affects the temporal dynamics of particle engulfment, enabling more rapid uptake of a second target and delaying postengulfment processing, as evidenced by deferred acquisition of phagosome maturation markers. SOCS3 knockdown impacts on phagocytosis through increased PI3K and Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 (Rac1) activity, pathways essential for engulfment and clearance of apoptotic cells. Enhanced phagocytosis in SOCS3-
silenced cells was reversed by pharmacological PI3K inhibition. Furthermore, we revealed that actin polymerization, downstream of PI3K/Rac1 activation, was
significantly altered in SOCS3-silenced cells, providing a mechanism for their greater phagocytic activity. The findings support a new model, whereby SOCS3 not
only plays an important role in driving macrophage inflammatory responses but modulates key signaling pathways organizing the actin cytoskeleton to regulate
the efficiency of phagocytic processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-780
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number4
Early online date22 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • live-cell imaging
  • PI3K
  • Rac1


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