Intestinal macrophages and response to microbial encroachment

Mucosal Immunol. 2011 Jan;4(1):31-42. doi: 10.1038/mi.2010.66. Epub 2010 Oct 20.


Macrophages in the gastrointestinal mucosa represent the largest pool of tissue macrophages in the body. In order to maintain mucosal homeostasis, resident intestinal macrophages uniquely do not express the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) co-receptor CD14 or the IgA (CD89) and IgG (CD16, 32, and 64) receptors, yet prominently display Toll-like receptors (TLRs) 3-9. Remarkably, intestinal macrophages also do not produce proinflammatory cytokines in response to TLR ligands, likely because of extracellular matrix (stromal) transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) dysregulation of nuclear factor (NF)-κB signal proteins and, via Smad signaling, expression of IκBα, thereby inhibiting NF-κB-mediated activities. Thus, in noninflamed mucosa, resident macrophages are inflammation anergic but retain avid scavenger and host defense function, an ideal profile for macrophages in close proximity to gut microbiota. In the event of impaired epithelial integrity during intestinal infection or inflammation, however, blood monocytes also accumulate in the lamina propria and actively pursue invading microorganisms through uptake and degradation of the organism and release of inflammatory mediators. Consequently, resident intestinal macrophages are inflammation adverse, but when the need arises, they receive assistance from newly recruited circulating monocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / genetics
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Intestines / immunology
  • Intestines / microbiology
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / genetics
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Receptors, Fc / genetics
  • Receptors, Fc / immunology
  • Receptors, IgG / genetics
  • Receptors, IgG / immunology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism
  • Toll-Like Receptors / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factors / metabolism


  • Antigens, CD
  • Cytokines
  • Fc(alpha) receptor
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • NF-kappa B
  • Receptors, Fc
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Smad Proteins
  • Toll-Like Receptors
  • Transforming Growth Factors