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This study demonstrates the induction of lysozyme mRNA expression in situ in tissue macrophages (M phi) of mice following in vivo stimulation. The resting resident tissue M phi of most tissues do not contain enough lysozyme mRNA to be detected by in situ hybridization using 35S-labeled RNA probes. Following Bacille Calmette Guerin or Plasmodium yoelli infection, however, M phi recruited to liver and spleen hybridize strongly to the lysozyme probe. Within 24 h of infection, cells found in the marginal zone of the spleen begin to produce lysozyme mRNA. This response is also evoked by a noninfectious agent (intravenously injected sheep erythrocytes), and is possibly the result of an early phagocytic interaction. Later in the infection, other cells in the red and white pulp of the spleen, and cells in granulomas in the liver, become lysozyme-positive. Kupffer cells are rarely lysozyme-positive. Lysozyme mRNA levels in liver granulomas remain relatively constant during the infection, and lysozyme is produced by most granuloma cells. This contrasts with tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF alpha) mRNA, which is produced by fewer cells in the granuloma, and which can be massively induced by lipopolysaccharide administration. The production of lysozyme, previously considered a constitutive function of M phi, is therefore an indicator of M phi activation in vivo, where immunologically specific and nonspecific stimuli both stimulate lysozyme production at high levels in subpopulations of cells occupying discrete anatomical locations.


Journal article


J Exp Med

Publication Date





1049 - 1058


Animals, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Macrophage Activation, Macrophages, Mice, Mice, Inbred BALB C, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Muramidase, Mycobacterium bovis, Nucleic Acid Hybridization, RNA, Messenger, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha