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Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, also called chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2) or small inducible cytokine A2, is an inflammatory mediator capable of recruiting monocytes, memory T cells, and dendritic cells. CCL2 is a member of the CC chemokine superfamily, which binds to its receptor, C-C motif chemokine receptor-2 (CCR2), for the induction of chemotactic activity and an increase of calcium influx. It exerts multiple effects on a variety of cells, including monocytes, macrophages, osteoclasts, basophils, and endothelial cells, and is involved in a diverse range of diseases. This review discusses the molecular structure and role of CCL2 and CCR2 in skeletal biology and disease. Molecular structure analyses reveal that CCL2 shares a conserved C-C motif; however, it has only limited sequence homology with other CCL family members. Likewise, CCR2, as a member of the G-protein-coupled seven-transmembrane receptor superfamily, shares conserved cysteine residues, but exhibits very limited sequence homology with other CCR family members. In the skeletal system, the expression of CCL2 is regulated by a variety of factors, such as parathyroid hormone/parathyroid hormone-related peptide, interleukin 1b, tumor necrosis factor-α and transforming growth factor-beta, RANKL, and mechanical forces. The interaction of CCL2 and CCR2 activates several signaling cascades, including PI3K/Akt/ERK/NF-κB, PI3K/MAPKs, and JAK/STAT-1/STAT-3. Understanding the role of CCL2 and CCR2 will facilitate the development of novel therapies for skeletal disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteolysis and other inflammatory diseases related to abnormal chemotaxis.
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