The key role of macrophages in the immunopathogenesis of inflammatory bowel disease

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2000 Feb;6(1):21-33. doi: 10.1097/00054725-200002000-00004.


Macrophages are important in the host's immunological and inflammatory responses. There is a large population of these cells in the normal intestinal mucosa where they represent the major antigen presenting cell population capable of determining the type of T cell responses that develop to luminal antigens. Studies suggest that the normal intestinal macrophages cannot be easily induced to mediate acute inflammatory responses. In active inflammatory bowel disease there is an increase in the mucosal macrophage population, derived from circulating monocytes. These recruited macrophages are phenotypically different from the resident population of cells and play a major role in mediating the chronic mucosal inflammation seen in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. They secrete many cytokines that are important in the proinflammatory responses, such as interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, IL-8, IL-12, IL-18, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. They also release reactive metabolites of oxygen and nitrogen and proteases that degrade the extracellular matrix. Macrophages also appear to be important during resolution of inflammation and repair of the intestinal mucosa that occurs during disease remission.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / immunology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / metabolism
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / pathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines