Phagocytosis of microorganisms represents a stress not only for the phagocytosed agent but also for the host cell. We have investigated the stress response induced in human monocytes-macrophages (M phi) phagocytosing inactivated Staphylococcus aureus. Exposure of human M phi to S. aureus induced in these cells (i) a threefold increase in superoxide dismutase activity, (ii) a selective and differentiation-dependent induction of host heat shock protein synthesis (HSP70 but not HSP65), and (iii) de novo synthesis of heme oxygenase, but only when exogenous iron was added to the cultures. The coordinate upregulation of two scavenging enzymes and of HSP70 suggests that all three are part of cellular protective mechanisms against phagocytosis-related oxidative injury to host cells
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