CD163 and inflammation: biological, diagnostic, and therapeutic aspects

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Jun 10;18(17):2352-63. doi: 10.1089/ars.2012.4834. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


Significance: The hemoglobin (Hb) scavenger receptor, CD163, is a macrophage-specific protein and the upregulated expression of this receptor is one of the major changes in the macrophage switch to alternative activated phenotypes in inflammation. Accordingly, a high CD163 expression in macrophages is a characteristic of tissues responding to inflammation. The scavenging of the oxidative and proinflammatory Hb leading to stimulation of the heme-oxygenase-1 and production of anti-inflammatory heme metabolites indicates that CD163 thereby indirectly contributes to the anti-inflammatory response.

Recent advances: In addition to this biological role in inflammation, CD163 is a potential inflammation biomarker and a therapeutic target. The biomarker form of CD163 is the soluble plasma CD163 that arises from the increased shedding of CD163 mediated by the tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) cleaving enzyme. This explains that a steadily increasing literature documents that the plasma level of soluble CD163 is increased in a large spectrum of acute and chronic inflammatory disorders. The nonshed membrane form of CD163 in macrophages constitutes a target for drugs to be directed to macrophages in inflammation. This approach has been used in an animal inflammation model to highly increase the apparent therapeutic index of anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid drug that was coupled to an anti-CD163 antibody. Furthermore, other recent animal data, which indirectly involve CD163 in macrophages, demonstrate that injections of haptoglobin attenuate Hb-induced damages after blood transfusion.

Critical issues and future directions: The diagnostic and therapeutic properties of CD163 await further clinical studies and regulatory approval before implementation in the clinic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / chemistry
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism*
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / chemistry
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / genetics
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Haptoglobins / metabolism
  • Hemoglobins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / chemistry
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • Biomarkers
  • CD163 antigen
  • Haptoglobins
  • Hemoglobins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface