Link between macrophage migration inhibitory factor and cellular redox regulation

Antioxid Redox Signal. Sep-Oct 2005;7(9-10):1234-48. doi: 10.1089/ars.2005.7.1234.


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) is an evolutionary conserved 12.5-kDa protein mediator with multiple functions in innate and acquired immunity. Upon leaderless secretion, MIF acts as a typical inflammatory cytokine, but there is no structural homology between MIF and any of the known cytokine protein families. Also, MIF is unique among cytokines in that it exhibits certain endocrine properties and has enzymatic activity. The catalytic thiol-protein oxidoreductase (TPOR) activity of MIF is mediated by a Cys-Ala-Leu-Cys active site between residues 57 and 60 that can undergo reversible intramolecular disulfide formation. Such a redox motif is typically found in TPORs of the thioredoxin (Trx) family of proteins. MIF seems to act as a disulfide reductase, and structure-function analyses of the redox site indicate that this activity is not only observed in vitro, but plays a role in cellular redox homeostasis, apoptosis inhibition, MIF-mediated monocyte/macrophage activation, and possibly the modulation of the activity of MIF-binding proteins. In this Forum review, the biochemical and biological evidence for a role of the TPOR activity for various MIF functions is summarized and discussed. In particular, the marked functional homologies with Trx proteins, the MIF redox/MHC II link, and recent attempts to discern the intra- versus extracellular roles of the MIF TPOR activity are dealt with.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte / metabolism
  • Binding Sites
  • Catalysis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disulfides
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors / physiology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Monocytes / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction*
  • Oxidoreductases / chemistry
  • Peptides / chemistry
  • Protein Disulfide Reductase (Glutathione) / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thioredoxins / chemistry


  • Antigens, Differentiation, B-Lymphocyte
  • Cytokines
  • Disulfides
  • Histocompatibility Antigens Class II
  • Macrophage Migration-Inhibitory Factors
  • Peptides
  • invariant chain
  • Thioredoxins
  • Oxidoreductases
  • Protein Disulfide Reductase (Glutathione)