Acute phase-regulated receptor involved in clearance and endocytosis of hemoglobin/haptoglobin complexes by macrophages and may thereby protect tissues from free hemoglobin-mediated oxidative damage. May play a role in the uptake and recycling of iron, via endocytosis of hemoglobin/haptoglobin and subsequent breakdown of heme. Binds hemoglobin/haptoglobin complexes in a calcium-dependent and pH-dependent manner. Exhibits a higher affinity for complexes of hemoglobin and multimeric haptoglobin of HP*1F phenotype than for complexes of hemoglobin and dimeric haptoglobin of HP*1S phenotype. Induces a cascade of intracellular signals that involves tyrosine kinase-dependent calcium mobilization, inositol triphosphate production and secretion of IL6 and CSF1. Isoform 3 exhibits the higher capacity for ligand endocytosis and the more pronounced surface expression when expressed in cells.; After shedding, the soluble form (sCD163) may play an anti-inflammatory role, and may be a valuable diagnostic parameter for monitoring macrophage activation in inflammatory conditions.