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NFκB activation and stimulation of chemokine production in normal human macrophages by the gadolinium-based magnetic resonance contrast agent Omniscan: possible role in the pathogenesis of nephrogenic systemic fibrosis
  1. Francesco Del Galdo1,
  2. Peter J Wermuth1,
  3. Sankar Addya2,
  4. Paolo Fortina2,
  5. Sergio A Jimenez1
  1. 1Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2Kimmel Cancer Center, Department of Cancer Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Sergio A Jimenez, Jefferson Institute of Molecular Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University, Bluemle Life Science Building, Suite 509, 233 South 10th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107-5541, USA; sergio.jimenez{at}


Objective Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a generalised fibrotic disorder occurring in certain individuals with renal insufficiency exposed to gadolinium-based contrast agents (GdBCA) for MRI. Histopathological examination of affected tissues shows increased numbers of activated macrophages. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible for macrophage activation, the effects of the GdBCA Omniscan on normal human macrophage global gene expression, chemokine production and nuclear factor κB (NFκB) activation was examined.

Methods Normal human monocyte-derived macrophages were incubated with Omniscan (50 mM) and their gene expression analysed by microarrays and real-time PCR. Macrophage chemokine production was assayed by multiplex ELISA. NFκB activation was assessed by NFκB nuclear localisation and quantitation of intracellular levels of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) protein. A specific cell-permeable NFκB peptide inhibitor was used to abrogate NFκB stimulation of chemokine and iNOS protein levels. CCL8/MCP-2 in affected skin of patients with NSF was examined by indirect immunofluorescence.

Results Omniscan caused a profound change in the transcriptome of differentiated human normal macrophages in vitro, including a large increase in the expression of genes encoding CC and CXC chemokines. It induced rapid nuclear localisation of NFκB and stimulation of iNOS protein levels and chemokine production which were blocked by an NFκB inhibitory peptide. CCL8/MCP-2, the most upregulated chemokine following in vitro macrophage exposure to Omniscan, was strongly increased in NSF-affected skin.

Conclusion The GdBCA Omniscan induces potent stimulation of macrophage gene expression, NFκB activation and increased NFκB-mediated production of CC and CXC chemokines and iNOS. These alterations may play a crucial role in the pathogenesis of NSF.

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  • The first two authors contributed equally to this work.

  • See Editorial, p 1895

  • Funding Supported by an Investigator Initiated Grant (IIG) from GE Healthcare to SAJ, by grants from NIH (RO1 AR-019616) to SAJ, the Scleroderma Research Foundation and the Dermatology Foundation to FDG and the PA Department of Health (SAP4100026302) to PF. PJW was supported by NIH Training Grant (T32 AR-007583) to SAJ.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Thomas Jefferson University Internal Review Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Competing Interests None.