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.