Tumor progression stage and anatomical site regulate tumor-associated macrophage and bone marrow-derived monocyte polarization

Am J Pathol. 2010 Jun;176(6):2972-85. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.090879. Epub 2010 Apr 29.


Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) encourage and coordinate neoplastic growth. In late stage human lung adenocarcinoma, TAMs exhibited mixed M1 (classical; argI(low)iNOS(high)) and M2 (alternative; argI(high)iNOS(low)) polarization based on arginine metabolism. In several murine cancer models including chemically and genetically-induced primary lung tumors, prostate tumors, colon xenografts, and lung metastases, TAMs expressed argI(high)iNOS(low) early during tumor formation; argI(low)iNOS(high) polarization also occurred during malignancy in some models. In a chemically-induced lung tumor model, macrophages expressed argI(high)iNOS(low) within one week after carcinogen treatment, followed by similar polarization of bone marrow-derived monocytes (BDMCs) a few days later. TAMs surrounding murine prostate tumors also expressed argI(high)iNOS(low) early during tumorigenesis, indicating that this polarization is not unique to neoplastic lungs. In a human colon cancer xenograft model, the primary tumor was surrounded by argI(high)iNOS(low)-expressing TAMs, and BDMCs also expressed argI(high)iNOS(low), but pulmonary macrophages adopted argI(high)iNOS(low) polarization only after tumors metastasized to the lungs. Persistence of tumors is required to maintain TAM polarization. Indeed, in both conditional mutant Kras- and FGF10-driven models of lung cancer, mice expressing the transgene develop lung tumors that regress rapidly when the transgene is silenced. Furthermore, pulmonary macrophages expressed argI(high)iNOS(low) on tumor induction, but then returned to argI(low) iNOS(low) (no polarization) after tumors regressed. Manipulating TAM function or depleting TAMs may provide novel therapeutic strategies for preventing and treating many types of cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Cell Polarity*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interferon-gamma / metabolism
  • Interleukin-4 / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Alveolar* / cytology
  • Macrophages, Alveolar* / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Monocytes* / cytology
  • Monocytes* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*


  • Interleukin-4
  • Interferon-gamma