Macrophages: master regulators of inflammation and fibrosis

Semin Liver Dis. 2010 Aug;30(3):245-57. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1255354. Epub 2010 Jul 21.


Macrophages are found in close proximity with collagen-producing myofibroblasts and indisputably play a key role in fibrosis. They produce profibrotic mediators that directly activate fibroblasts, including transforming growth factor-beta1 and platelet-derived growth factor, and control extracellular matrix turnover by regulating the balance of various matrix metalloproteinases and tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases. Macrophages also regulate fibrogenesis by secreting chemokines that recruit fibroblasts and other inflammatory cells. With their potential to act in both a pro- and antifibrotic capacity, as well as their ability to regulate the activation of resident and recruited myofibroblasts, macrophages and the factors they express are integrated into all stages of the fibrotic process. These various, and sometimes opposing, functions may be performed by distinct macrophage subpopulations, the identification of which is a growing focus of fibrosis research. Although collagen-secreting myofibroblasts once were thought of as the master "producers" of fibrosis, this review will illustrate how macrophages function as the master "regulators" of fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arginase / metabolism
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Hepatic Stellate Cells / immunology
  • Hepatitis / immunology*
  • Hepatitis / metabolism
  • Hepatitis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / metabolism*
  • Liver / immunology*
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / immunology*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / metabolism
  • Liver Cirrhosis / pathology
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Phagocytosis
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • Arginase