Teaching old dogs new tricks? The plasticity of lung alveolar macrophage subsets

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Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are highly abundant lung cells with important roles in homeostasis and immunity. Their function influences the outcome of lung infections, lung cancer, and chronic inflammatory disease. Recent findings reveal functional heterogeneity of AMs. Following lung insult, resident AMs can either remain unchanged, acquire new functionality, or be replaced by monocyte-derived AMs. Evidence from mouse models correlates AM function with their embryonic or monocyte origin. We hypothesize that resident AMs are terminally differentiated cells with low responsiveness and limited plasticity, while recruited, monocyte-derived AMs are initially highly immunoreactive but more plastic, able to change their function in response to environmental cues. Understanding cell-intrinsic and -extrinsic mechanisms determining AM function may provide opportunities for intervention in lung disease.

Journal details

Volume 41
Issue number 10
Pages 864-877
Available online
Publication date