The endogenous Toll-like receptor 4 agonist S100A8/S100A9 (calprotectin) as innate amplifier of infection, autoimmunity, and cancer

J Leukoc Biol. 2009 Sep;86(3):557-66. doi: 10.1189/jlb.1008647. Epub 2009 May 18.


The innate immune system is crucial for initiation and amplification of inflammatory responses. During this process, phagocytes are activated by PAMPs that are recognized by PRRs. Phagocytes are also activated by endogenous danger signals called alarmins or DAMPs via partly specific, partly common PRRs. Two members of the S100 protein family, S100A8 and S100A9, have been identified recently as important endogenous DAMPs. The complex of S100A8 and S100A9 (also called calprotectin) is actively secreted during the stress response of phagocytes. The association of inflammation and S100A8/S100A9 was discovered more than 20 years ago, but only now are the molecular mechanisms involved in danger signaling by extracellular S100A8/S100A9 beginning to emerge. Taking advantage of mice lacking the functional S100A8/S100A9 complex, these molecules have been identified as endogenous activators of TLR4 and have been shown to promote lethal, endotoxin-induced shock. Importantly, S100A8/S100A9 is not only involved in promoting the inflammatory response in infections but was also identified as a potent amplifier of inflammation in autoimmunity as well as in cancer development and tumor spread. This proinflammatory action of S100A8/S100A9 involves autocrine and paracrine mechanisms in phagocytes, endothelium, and other cells. As a net result, extravasation of leukocytes into inflamed tissues and their subsequent activation are increased. Thus, S100A8/S100A9 plays a pivotal role during amplification of inflammation and represents a promising new therapeutic target.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Calgranulin A / metabolism*
  • Calgranulin B / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Infections / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / agonists


  • Calgranulin A
  • Calgranulin B
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4