Alveolar macrophages (AM) differ from other macrophage (m phi) populations in their profile of eicosanoids synthesized from arachidonic acid (AA)3. Little information is available regarding possible differences in the regulation of AA metabolism among various m phi populations. In our study, we compared the ability of cultured resident rat AM and peritoneal m phi (PM) to release and metabolize AA in response to exogenous activators of protein kinase C (PKC). When stimulated with PMA, prelabeled PM released free [3H]AA in a dose-dependent manner over the concentration range 1 to 100 nM. As assessed by HPLC, PMA-stimulated PM metabolized AA to a variety of predominantly cyclooxygenase products. The dose-dependent synthesis of PGE2 by unlabeled PM stimulated with PMA was confirmed using RIA. The ability of PMA to trigger AA release and metabolism in PM was a function of its capacity to activate PKC, as indicated by the following: 1) an additional activator of PKC, oleoyl acetylglycerol, also triggered PM AA metabolism, whereas phorbol didecanoate, which lacks the ability to activate PKC, did not; 2) two structurally unrelated inhibitors of PKC activation (staurosporine and sphinganine) both abrogated PMA induced AA release in PM; and 3) pretreatment for 18 h with high dose PMA (used to deplete cellular PKC), but not phorbol didecanoate, rendered PM refractory to subsequent PMA stimulation of AA release. In contrast to PM, AM cultured in identical fashion failed to release or metabolize AA in response to either PMA or oleoyl acetylglycerol. PM and AM were also compared for their ability to release extracellular superoxide anion in response to PMA; once again, PM exhibited significantly greater release than did AM. Inasmuch as this unresponsiveness to activation of PKC distinguishes AM from other m phi populations, we conclude that it is a unique consequence of m phi differentiation in the lung. Moreover, because both AA metabolism and the respiratory burst are affected, this refractoriness appears to reflect a defect at some proximal level in PKC-mediated signaling.

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