Macrophages: Contributors to Allograft Dysfunction, Repair, or Innocent Bystanders?

Curr Opin Organ Transplant. 2012 Feb;17(1):20-5. doi: 10.1097/MOT.0b013e32834ee5b6.


Purpose of review: Macrophages are members of the innate immune response. However, their role in the adaptive immune response is not known. The purpose of this review is to highlight our current understanding of macrophage structure and function and how they may participate in allograft injury.

Recent findings: Studies in acute kidney injury models identify macrophages as key mediators of inflammatory injury, while more recent studies indicate that they may play a reparative role, depending on phenotype - M1 or M2 type macrophages. Mregs, generated in vitro, appear to have immune suppressive abilities and a unique phenotype. In solid-organ transplant, the emphasis of studies has been on acute or chronic injury. These data are derived from animal models using depletion of macrophages or antagonizing their activation and inflammatory responses. The relative contribution of macrophage phenotype in transplantation has not been explored.

Summary: These studies suggest that macrophages play an injurious role in acute cellular allograft rejection, as well as in chronic injury. Infiltration of an allograft with macrophages is also associated with worse graft function and poor prognosis. Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms of macrophage-mediated injury, explore their potential reparative role, and determine if they or their functional products are biomarkers of poor graft outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Acute Kidney Injury / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Chronic Disease
  • Graft Rejection / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Organ Transplantation
  • Transplantation, Homologous / immunology*