N-formylmethionyl (F-Met) peptides, when added alone to macrophages or polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN), were found to induce a chemiluminescent response of shorter duration than that produced by the commonly employed particulate stimulant, zymosan. The cellular nature of F-Met peptide-induced chemiluminescence was indicated by its dependence on cell concentration, and by its inhibition by cell disruption, heat inactivation, or previous maximal stimulation by the peptides.

Comparison of PMN and macrophages from different species showed that the maximal chemiluminescent response seen in the dose-response curve of F-Met- Phe was different in different cell types. Chemiluminescence reached highest values in human PMN, it was intermediate in guinea pig macrophages and PMN, and in rabbit PMN; but it was nonexistent in rabbit alveolar macrophages and very low in rabbit peritoneal macrophages. A definite relationship was observed between peptide structure and chemiluminescent activity. Met-Phe, F- Met and Phe were inactive even at millimolar concentrations, while F-Met-Phe caused chemiluminescence at micromolar concentrations. Four active peptides were tested in guinea pig, rabbit, and human PMN, and in guinea pig alveolar and peritoneal macrophages. The relative activity of these peptides was the same in all cells studied, e.g. F-Met-Leu-Phe >> F-Met-Phe > F-Met-Val > F- Met-Ala. The values of ED50 for each peptide were also comparable to previously reported ED50 values of these peptides in inducing lysosomal enzyme release. These results were seen both in the presence and absence ofthe chemiluminescent oxidant indicator, luminol.

Low concentrations of superoxide dismutase (10 μg/ml) completely inhibited chemiluminescence caused by the F-Met peptides, suggesting the involvement of 0(2)(-) or O(2)(-)-derived compounds in this response. Sodium azide, an inhibitor of peroxidase reactions, had either no effect or a slight inhibitory effect on chemiluminescence. However, when the extracellular release of lysosomal enzymes was induced by cytochalasin B, an azide- inhibitable enhancement of chemiluminescence was seen in PMN, but not in macrophages. This effect appears to be correlated with the presence of granule-associated myeloperoxidase. Although azide-inhibitable peroxidases could be a potential source of light, they did not appear to be a significant contributor in these experiments.

Based on these results and on those of previous investigators, we postulate that the F-Met-peptides stimulate 0(2)(-) production in addition to stimulating lysosomal enzyme release and chemotaxis. The similar structure- activity relationship which appears to exist for these processes may indicate that they are all initiated by a single receptor mechanism. Since F-Met peptides are formed in bacteria it is likely that their actions represent an important physiologic response.

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