Lipocalin-2 (LCN2), also known as oncogene 24p3 or neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), is a protein that in humans is encoded by the LCN2 gene. NGAL is involved in innate immunity by sequestering iron and preventing its use by bacteria, thus limiting their growth. It is expressed in neutrophils and in low levels in the kidney, prostate, and epithelia of the respiratory and alimentary tracts. NGAL is used as a biomarker of kidney injury.
The binding of NGAL to bacterial siderophores is important in the innate immune response to bacterial infection. Upon encountering invading bacteria, the toll-like receptors on immune cells stimulate the synthesis and secretion of NGAL. Secreted NGAL then limits bacterial growth by sequestering iron-containing siderophores. Lipocalin-2 binds, next to bacterial siderophores, also to the mammalian siderophore 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acid (2,5-DHBA). This complex ensures that excess free iron does not accumulate in the cytoplasm. Mammalian cells lacking 2,5-DHBA accumulate abnormal intracellular levels of iron leading to high levels of reactive oxygen species. Lipocalin-2 also functions as a growth factor and participates in synaptic plasticity.
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