The AIF1 gene is located within a segment of the major histocompatibility complex class III region. It has been shown that this gene is highly expressed in testis and spleen, but weakly expressed in brain, lung, and kidney. Among brain cells, the Iba1 gene was specifically expressed in microglia. Upon activation of microglia due to inflammation, expression of Iba1 is upregulated allowing the discrimination between surveiling and activated microglia.
AIF1 is a protein that exists in the cytoplasm, and it is highly evolutionarily conserved. It is also possibly identical to three other proteins, Iba-1, MRF-1 (microglia response factor) and daintain. However complete functional profiles of all three proteins and how they overlap is unknown. IBA1 is a 17-kDaEF hand protein that is specifically expressed in macrophages / microglia and is upregulated during the activation of these cells. Iba1 expression is up-regulated in microglia following nerve injury, central nervous system ischemia, and several other brain diseases.
AIF1 was originally discovered in atherosclerotic lesions in a rat model of chronic allograft cardiac rejection. It was found to be upregulated in macrophages and neutrophils in response to the cytokine IFN-γ. AIF1 expression has been seen to increase in vascular tissue in response to arterial injury, specifically it is found in activated vascular smooth muscle cells in response to IFN-γ, IL-1β, and T-cell conditioned media. In vascular smooth muscle cells, activation is responsible for arterial thickening in allografts through over proliferation. AIF1 has been found to enhance growth and promote proliferation in vascular smooth muscle cells through deregulation of the cell cycle. It does this by shortening the cell cycle and altering the expression of cyclins. Though histologically different, AIF1 has also been shown to promote the proliferation and activation of endothelial cells (EC). EC activation, leads to proliferation and migration of cells, which is involved in multiple normal vascular processes, such as atherosclerosis, angiogenesis, and wound healing. It is currently theorized that AIF1 works to control endothelial cell proliferation and migration through action in signal transduction pathways. It has features of a cytoplasmic signaling protein, including several domains that allow for binding to multiprotein complexes, called PDZ domains. In endothelial cells, AIF1 has been specifically shown to regulate vasculogenesis, including the formation of aortic sprouting and tube-like formations. AIF1 been shown to interact with kinase p44/42 and PAK1, two previously known signal transduction molecules, in regulating these processes. AIF1 also shows distinct differences in the pathways by which it regulates endothelial cells, macrophages, and vascular smooth muscle cells.
Allograft Inflammatory Factor 1 is found in activated macrophages. Activated macrophages are found in tissues with inflammation. AIF1 levels in healthy humans have been found to positively correlate with metabolic indicators, such as body mass index, triglycerides, and fasting plasma glucose levels. The excess of adipose tissue found in obese patients is found to cause chronic inflammation with an increase in the number of activated macrophages. Subsequently, AIF1 may be an accurate indicator of macrophage activation in the body. There is also evidence that AIF1 could be a marker for diabetic nephropathy when detected in serum. Since diabetic nephropathy is a consequence of long-term type 1 and type 2 diabetes, this consistent with evidence that AIF1 may be associated with other aspects of diabetes. It is found in activated macrophages in the pancreatic islets, and has been shown to decrease insulin secretion, while simultaneously impairing glucose elimination.
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