Pentraxin 3 (PTX3), a long pentraxin subfamily member in the pentraxin family, plays an important role in innate immunity as a soluble pattern recognition receptor. Plasma PTX3 is elevated in sepsis (~200 ng/ml) and correlates with mortality. The roles of PTX3 in sepsis, however, are not well understood. To investigate the ligands of PTX3 in sepsis, we performed a targeted proteomic study of circulating PTX3 complexes using magnetic bead-based immunopurification and shotgun proteomics for label-free relative quantitation via spectral counting. From septic patient fluids, we successfully identified 104 candidate proteins, including the known PTX3-interacting proteins involved in complement activation, pathogen opsonization, inflammation regulation, and extracellular matrix deposition. Notably, the proteomic profile additionally showed that PTX3 formed a complex with some of the components of neutrophil extracellular traps. Subsequent biochemical analyses revealed a direct interaction of bactericidal proteins azurocidin 1 (AZU1) and myeloperoxidase with PTX3. AZU1 exhibited high affinity binding (K(D) = 22 ± 7.6 nm) to full-length PTX3 in a calcium ion-dependent manner and bound specifically to an oligomer of the PTX3 N-terminal domain. Immunohistochemistry with a specific monoclonal antibody generated against AZU1 revealed a partial co-localization of AZU1 with PTX3 in neutrophil extracellular traps. The association of circulating PTX3 with components of the neutrophil extracellular traps in sepsis suggests a role for PTX3 in host defense and as a potential diagnostic target.
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