BACKGROUND: The relevance of the dissociation of circulating pentameric C-reactive protein (pCRP) to its monomeric subunits (mCRP) is poorly understood. We investigated the role of conformational C-reactive protein changes in vivo. METHODS AND RESULTS: We identified mCRP in inflamed human striated muscle, human atherosclerotic plaque, and infarcted myocardium (rat and human) and its colocalization with inflammatory cells, which suggests a general causal role of mCRP in inflammation. This was confirmed in rat intravital microscopy of lipopolysaccharide-induced cremasteric muscle inflammation. Intravenous pCRP administration significantly enhanced leukocyte rolling, adhesion, and transmigration via localized dissociation to mCRP in inflamed but not noninflamed cremaster muscle. This was confirmed in a rat model of myocardial infarction. Mechanistically, this process was dependent on exposure of lysophosphatidylcholine on activated cell membranes, which is generated after phospholipase A2 activation. These membrane changes could be visualized intravitally on endothelial cells, as could the colocalized mCRP generation. Blocking of phospholipase A2 abrogated C-reactive protein dissociation and thereby blunted the proinflammatory effects of C-reactive protein. Identifying the dissociation process as a therapeutic target, we stabilized pCRP using 1,6-bis(phosphocholine)-hexane, which prevented dissociation in vitro and in vivo and consequently inhibited the generation and proinflammatory activity of mCRP; notably, it also inhibited mCRP deposition and inflammation in rat myocardial infarction. CONCLUSIONS: These results provide in vivo evidence for a novel mechanism that localizes and aggravates inflammation via phospholipase A2-dependent dissociation of circulating pCRP to mCRP. mCRP is proposed as a pathogenic factor in atherosclerosis and myocardial infarction. Most importantly, the inhibition of pCRP dissociation represents a promising, novel anti-inflammatory therapeutic strategy.