Macrolides are used to treat various inflammatory diseases owing to their immunomodulatory properties; however, little is known about their precise mechanism of action. In this study, we investigated the functional significance of the expansion of myeloid-derived suppressor cell (MDSC)-like CD11b+Gr-1+cells in response to the macrolide antibiotic clarithromycin (CAM) in mouse models of shock and post-influenza pneumococcal pneumonia as well as in humans. Intraperitoneal administration of CAM markedly expanded splenic and lung CD11b+Gr-1+cell populations in naïve mice. Notably, CAM pretreatment enhanced survival in a mouse model of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced shock. In addition, adoptive transfer of CAM-treated CD11b+Gr-1+cells protected mice against LPS-induced lethality via increased IL-10 expression. CAM also improved survival in post-influenza, CAM-resistant pneumococcal pneumonia, with improved lung pathology as well as decreased interferon (IFN)-γ and increased IL-10 levels. Adoptive transfer of CAM-treated CD11b+Gr-1+cells protected mice from post-influenza pneumococcal pneumonia. Further analysis revealed that the CAM-induced CD11b+Gr-1+cell expansion was dependent on STAT3-mediated Bv8 production and may be facilitated by the presence of gut commensal microbiota. Lastly, an analysis of peripheral blood obtained from healthy volunteers following oral CAM administration showed a trend toward the expansion of human MDSC-like cells (Lineage−HLA-DR−CD11b+CD33+) with increased arginase 1 mRNA expression. Thus, CAM promoted the expansion of a unique population of immunosuppressive CD11b+Gr-1+cells essential for the immunomodulatory properties of macrolides.
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