Macrophages: regulators of sex differences in asthma?

Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2010 May;42(5):595-603. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2009-0016OC. Epub 2009 Jul 2.


Females are more susceptible to development of asthma than are males. In a mouse model of ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation, with aggravated disease in females compared with males, we studied interactions between immune and resident lung cells during asthma development to elucidate which processes are affected by sex. We studied numbers of regulatory T cells (Tregs), effector T cells, myeloid dendritic cells (mDCs), and alternatively activated macrophages (AAMPhi), and their functional capabilities. Male and female mice had comparable Treg numbers in lung tissue and comparable Treg function, but effector T cells had expanded to a greater extent in lungs of females after ovalbumin exposure. This difference in T cell expansion was therefore not the result of lack of Treg control, but appeared to be driven by a greater number of inflammatory mDCs migrating from the lungs to lymph nodes in females. Resident lung cells can influence mDC migration, and AAMPhi in lung tissue were found to be involved. Artificially elevating the number of AAMPhi in lung tissue increased the migration of mDCs and airway inflammation. We found greater numbers of AAMPhi in female lungs than in males; we therefore postulate that AAMPhi are involved in increased airway inflammation found in female mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / chemically induced
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Separation
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dendritic Cells / pathology
  • Female
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lymph Nodes / immunology
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Ovalbumin / immunology
  • Pneumonia / chemically induced
  • Pneumonia / immunology
  • Pneumonia / pathology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Cytokines
  • Ovalbumin