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Concept: Macrophage


Macrophage G2A and CD36 lipid receptors are thought to mediate efferocytosis following tissue injury and thereby prevent excessive inflammation which could compromise tissue repair. To test this, we subjected mice lacking G2A or CD36 receptors to bleomycin-induced lung injury and measured efferocytosis, inflammation and fibrosis. Loss of CD36 (but not G2A) delayed clearance of apoptotic alveolar cells (mean 78% increase in apoptotic cells 7 days post-injury), potentiated inflammation (mean 56% increase in lung neutrophils and 75% increase in lung KC levels 7 days post-injury, 51% increase in lung macrophages 14 days post-injury) and reduced lung fibrosis (mean 41% and 29% reduction 14 and 21 days post-injury respectively). Reduced fibrosis in CD36-/- mice was associated with lower levels of pro-fibrotic TH2 cytokines (IL-9, IL-13, IL-4), decreased expression of the M2 macrophage marker Arginase-1 and reduced interstitial myofibroblasts. G2A, on the other hand, was required for optimal clearance of apoptotic neutrophils during zymosan-induced peritoneal inflammation (50.3% increase in apoptotic neutrophils and 30.6% increase in total neutrophils 24 hours following zymosan administration in G2A-/- mice). Thus, CD36 is required for timely removal of apoptotic cells in the context of lung injury and modulates subsequent inflammatory and fibrotic processes relevant to fibrotic lung disease.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Monocyte, Fibrosis, Cell biology, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis


Controlled induction of phagocytosis in macrophages offers the ability to therapeutically regulate the immune system as well as improve delivery of chemicals or biologicals for immune processing. Maximizing particle uptake by macrophages through Fc receptor-mediated phagocytosis could lead to new delivery mechanisms in drug or vaccine development. Fc ligand density and particle size were examined independently and in combination in order to optimize and tune the phagocytosis of opsonized microparticles. We show the internalization efficiency of small polystyrene particles (0.5 µm to 2 µm) is significantly affected by changes in Fc ligand density, while particles greater than 2 µm show little correlation between internalization and Fc density. We found that while macrophages can efficiently phagocytose a large number of smaller particles, the total volume of phagocytosed particles is maximized through the non-specific uptake of larger microparticles. Therefore, larger microparticles may be more efficient at delivering a greater therapeutic payload to macrophages, but smaller opsonized microparticles can deliver bio-active substances to a greater percentage of the macrophage population. This study is the first to treat as independent variables the physical and biological properties of Fc density and microparticle size that initiate macrophage phagocytosis. Defining the physical and biological parameters that affect phagocytosis efficiency will lead to improved methods of microparticle delivery to macrophages.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Antibody, Vaccine, Phagocytosis, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Opsonin


Macrophage polarization is increasingly recognised as an important pathogenetic factor in inflammatory and neoplastic diseases. Proinflammatory M1 macrophages promote T helper (Th) 1 responses and show tumoricidal activity. M2 macrophages contribute to tissue repair and promote Th2 responses. CD68 and CD163 are used to identify macrophages in tissue sections. However, characterisation of polarised macrophages in situ has remained difficult. Macrophage polarisation is regulated by transcription factors, pSTAT1 and RBP-J for M1, and CMAF for M2. We reasoned that double-labelling immunohistochemistry for the detection of macrophage markers together with transcription factors may be suitable to characterise macrophage polarisation in situ. To test this hypothesis, we have studied conditions associated with Th1- and Th2-predominant immune responses: infectious mononucleosis and Crohn’s disease for Th1 and allergic nasal polyps, oxyuriasis, wound healing and foreign body granulomas for predominant Th2 response. In all situations, CD163+ cells usually outnumbered CD68+ cells. Moreover, CD163+ cells, usually considered as M2 macrophages, co-expressing pSTAT1 and RBP-J were found in all conditions examined. The numbers of putative M1 macrophages were higher in Th1- than in Th2-associated diseases, while more M2 macrophages were seen in Th2- than in Th1 related disorders. In most Th1-related diseases, the balance of M1 over M2 cells was shifted towards M1 cells, while the reverse was observed for Th2-related conditions. Hierarchical cluster analysis revealed two distinct clusters: cluster I included Th1 diseases together with cases with high numbers of CD163+pSTAT1+, CD68+pSTAT1+, CD163+RBP-J+ and CD68+RBP-J+ macrophages; cluster II comprised Th2 conditions together with cases displaying high numbers of CD163+CMAF+ and CD68+CMAF+ macrophages. These results suggest that the detection of pSTAT1, RBP-J, and CMAF in the context of CD68 or CD163 expression is a suitable tool for the characterisation of macrophage polarisation in situ. Furthermore, CD163 cannot be considered a reliable M2 marker when used on its own.

Concepts: AIDS, Immune system, White blood cell, Asthma, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Allergy, T helper cell


Interleukin (IL)-17A signaling via Interleukin 17 receptor A (Il17ra) contributes to the inflammatory host response by inducing recruitment of innate immune cells, but also plays a role in homeostatic neutrophilic granulocyte regulation. Monocytes, the other main innate immune cell, have a longer life span and can pursue multiple differentiation pathways towards tissue macrophages. Monocytes are divided into two subpopulations by expression of the Ly6C/Gr1 surface marker in mice. We here investigated the role of Il17ra in monocyte homeostasis and macrophage generation. In Il17ra(-/-) and in mixed bone marrow chimeric wt/Il17ra(-/-) mice, the concentrations of circulating Il17ra(-/-) Gr1(low) monocytes were significantly decreased compared to wt cells. Pulmonary, splenic and resident peritoneal Il17ra(-/-) macrophages were significantly fewer than of wt origin. Bone marrow progenitor and monocyte numbers were equal, but the proportion of Il17ra(-/-) Gr1(low) monocytes was already decreased at bone marrow level. After monocyte depletion, initial Gr1(high) and Gr1(low) monocyte regeneration of Il17ra(-/-) and wt cells was very similar. However, Il17ra(-/-) Gr1(low) counts were not sustained. After labeling with either fluorescent beads or BrdU, Il17ra(-/-) Gr1(high) monocyte transition to Gr1(low) cells was not detectable unlike wt cells. Monocyte recruitment in acute peritonitis, which is known to be largely due to Gr1(high) cell migration, was unaffected in an identical environment. Unilateral ureteral obstruction induces a less acute inflammatory and fibrotic kidney injury. Compared to wt cells in the same environment, Il17ra(-/-) macrophage accumulation in the kidney was decreased. In the absence of Il17ra on all myeloid cells, renal fibrosis was significantly attenuated. Our data show that Il17ra modulates Gr1(low) monocyte counts and suggest defective Gr1(high) to Gr1(low) monocyte transition as an underlying mechanism. Lack of Il17ra altered homeostatic tissue macrophage formation and diminished renal inflammation and fibrosis. Il17ra appears to be a novel modulator of monocyte phenotype and possible therapeutic target in renal fibrosis.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Monocyte, Bone marrow, Cell biology, Macrophage, Spleen, Neutrophil granulocyte


Despite the observed severe effects of microgravity on mammalian cells, many astronauts have completed long term stays in space without suffering from severe health problems. This raises questions about the cellular capacity for adaptation to a new gravitational environment. The International Space Station (ISS) experiment TRIPLE LUX A, performed in the BIOLAB laboratory of the ISS COLUMBUS module, allowed for the first time the direct measurement of a cellular function in real time and on orbit. We measured the oxidative burst reaction in mammalian macrophages (NR8383 rat alveolar macrophages) exposed to a centrifuge regime of internal 0 g and 1 g controls and step-wise increase or decrease of the gravitational force in four independent experiments. Surprisingly, we found that these macrophages adapted to microgravity in an ultra-fast manner within seconds, after an immediate inhibitory effect on the oxidative burst reaction. For the first time, we provided direct evidence of cellular sensitivity to gravity, through real-time on orbit measurements and by using an experimental system, in which all factors except gravity were constant. The surprisingly ultra-fast adaptation to microgravity indicates that mammalian macrophages are equipped with a highly efficient adaptation potential to a low gravity environment. This opens new avenues for the exploration of adaptation of mammalian cells to gravitational changes.

Concepts: Immune system, Macrophage, General relativity, Gravitation, Weightlessness, International Space Station, Space exploration, Columbus


Macrophages are multifunctional cells that perform diverse roles in health and disease. Emerging evidence has suggested that these innate immune cells might also be capable of developing immunological memory, a trait previously associated with the adaptive system alone. While recent studies have focused on the dramatic macrophage reprogramming that follows infection and protects against secondary microbial attack, can macrophages also develop memory in response to other cues? Here, we show that apoptotic corpse engulfment by Drosophila macrophages is an essential primer for their inflammatory response to tissue damage and infection in vivo. Priming is triggered via calcium-induced JNK signaling, which leads to upregulation of the damage receptor Draper, thus providing a molecular memory that allows the cell to rapidly respond to subsequent injury or infection. This remarkable plasticity and capacity for memory places macrophages as key therapeutic targets for treatment of inflammatory disorders.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Monocyte, Antibody, Medicine, Innate immune system, Macrophage, Immunology


Exposure to psychosocial stress is a risk factor for many diseases, including atherosclerosis. Although incompletely understood, interaction between the psyche and the immune system provides one potential mechanism linking stress and disease inception and progression. Known cross-talk between the brain and immune system includes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which centrally drives glucocorticoid production in the adrenal cortex, and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axis, which controls stress-induced catecholamine release in support of the fight-or-flight reflex. It remains unknown, however, whether chronic stress changes hematopoietic stem cell activity. Here we show that stress increases proliferation of these most primitive hematopoietic progenitors, giving rise to higher levels of disease-promoting inflammatory leukocytes. We found that chronic stress induced monocytosis and neutrophilia in humans. While investigating the source of leukocytosis in mice, we discovered that stress activates upstream hematopoietic stem cells. Under conditions of chronic variable stress in mice, sympathetic nerve fibers released surplus noradrenaline, which signaled bone marrow niche cells to decrease CXCL12 levels through the β3-adrenergic receptor. Consequently, hematopoietic stem cell proliferation was elevated, leading to an increased output of neutrophils and inflammatory monocytes. When atherosclerosis-prone Apoe(-/-) mice were subjected to chronic stress, accelerated hematopoiesis promoted plaque features associated with vulnerable lesions that cause myocardial infarction and stroke in humans.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, White blood cell, Monocyte, Bone marrow, Macrophage, Hematopoietic stem cell, Thymus


Neutrophilic inflammation is tightly regulated and subsequently resolves to limit tissue damage and promote repair. When the timely resolution of inflammation is dysregulated, tissue damage and disease results. One key control mechanism is neutrophil apoptosis, followed by apoptotic cell clearance by phagocytes such as macrophages. Cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) inhibitor drugs induce neutrophil apoptosis in vitro and promote resolution of inflammation in rodent models. Here we present the first in vivo evidence, using pharmacological and genetic approaches, that CDK9 is involved in the resolution of neutrophil-dependent inflammation. Using live cell imaging in zebrafish with labelled neutrophils and macrophages, we show that pharmacological inhibition, morpholino-mediated knockdown and CRISPR/cas9-mediated knockout of CDK9 enhances inflammation resolution by reducing neutrophil numbers via induction of apoptosis after tailfin injury. Importantly, knockdown of the negative regulator La-related protein 7 (LaRP7) increased neutrophilic inflammation. Our data show that CDK9 is a possible target for controlling resolution of inflammation.

Concepts: Immune system, White blood cell, Monocyte, Cell biology, Macrophage, Cyclin-dependent kinase, Enzyme inhibitor, Neutrophil granulocyte


A zebrafish genetic screen for determinants of susceptibility to Mycobacterium marinum identified a hypersusceptible mutant deficient in lysosomal cysteine cathepsins that manifests hallmarks of human lysosomal storage diseases. Under homeostatic conditions, mutant macrophages accumulate undigested lysosomal material, which disrupts endocytic recycling and impairs their migration to, and thus engulfment of, dying cells. This causes a buildup of unengulfed cell debris. During mycobacterial infection, macrophages with lysosomal storage cannot migrate toward infected macrophages undergoing apoptosis in the tuberculous granuloma. The unengulfed apoptotic macrophages undergo secondary necrosis, causing granuloma breakdown and increased mycobacterial growth. Macrophage lysosomal storage similarly impairs migration to newly infecting mycobacteria. This phenotype is recapitulated in human smokers, who are at increased risk for tuberculosis. A majority of their alveolar macrophages exhibit lysosomal accumulations of tobacco smoke particulates and do not migrate to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The incapacitation of highly microbicidal first-responding macrophages may contribute to smokers' susceptibility to tuberculosis.

Concepts: Immune system, Macrophage, Apoptosis, Lysosomal storage disease, Tuberculosis, Mycobacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Mycobacterium marinum


Aging and lipotoxicity are two major risk factors for gout that are linked by the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. Neutrophil-mediated production of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) drives gouty flares that cause joint destruction, intense pain, and fever. However, metabolites that impact neutrophil inflammasome remain unknown. Here, we identified that ketogenic diet (KD) increases β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and alleviates urate crystal-induced gout without impairing immune defense against bacterial infection. BHB inhibited NLRP3 inflammasome in S100A9 fibril-primed and urate crystal-activated macrophages, which serve to recruit inflammatory neutrophils in joints. Consistent with reduced gouty flares in rats fed a ketogenic diet, BHB blocked IL-1β in neutrophils in a NLRP3-dependent manner in mice and humans irrespective of age. Mechanistically, BHB inhibited the NLRP3 inflammasome in neutrophils by reducing priming and assembly steps. Collectively, our studies show that BHB, a known alternate metabolic fuel, is also an anti-inflammatory molecule that may serve as a treatment for gout.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, White blood cell, Monocyte, Bacteria, Infection, Macrophage, Gout