Selective and specific macrophage ablation is detrimental to wound healing in mice

Am J Pathol. 2009 Dec;175(6):2454-62. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2009.090248. Epub 2009 Oct 22.


Macrophages are thought to play important roles during wound healing, but definition of these roles has been hampered by our technical inability to specifically eliminate macrophages during wound repair. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that specific depletion of macrophages after excisional skin wounding would detrimentally affect healing by reducing the production of growth factors important in the repair process. We used transgenic mice that express the human diphtheria toxin (DT) receptor under the control of the CD11b promoter (DTR mice) to specifically ablate macrophages during wound healing. Mice without the transgene are relatively insensitive to DT, and administration of DT to wild-type mice does not alter macrophage or other inflammatory cell accumulation after injury and does not influence wound healing. In contrast, treatment of DTR mice with DT prevented macrophage accumulation in healing wounds but did not affect the accumulation of neutrophils or monocytes. Such macrophage depletion resulted in delayed re-epithelialization, reduced collagen deposition, impaired angiogenesis, and decreased cell proliferation in the healing wounds. These adverse changes were associated with increased levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and reduced levels of transforming growth factor-beta1 and vascular endothelial growth factor in the wound. In summary, macrophages seem to promote both wound closure and dermal healing, in part by regulating the cytokine environment of the healing wound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diphtheria Toxin / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / immunology
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / injuries
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Wound Healing / physiology*


  • Diphtheria Toxin
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins