Tissue macrophage identity and self-renewal

Immunol Rev. 2014 Nov;262(1):56-73. doi: 10.1111/imr.12224.


Macrophages are cellular components of the innate immune system that reside in virtually all tissues and contribute to immunity, repair, and homeostasis. The traditional view that all tissue-resident macrophages derive from the bone marrow through circulating monocyte intermediates has dramatically shifted recently with the observation that macrophages from embryonic progenitors can persist into adulthood and self-maintain by local proliferation. In several tissues, however, monocytes also contribute to the resident macrophage population, on which the local environment can impose tissue-specific macrophage functions. These observations have raised important questions: What determines resident macrophage identity and function, ontogeny or environment? How is macrophage proliferation regulated? In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the identity, proliferation, and turnover of tissue-resident macrophages and how they differ from freshly recruited short-lived monocyte-derived cells. We examine whether macrophage proliferation can be qualified as self-renewal of mature differentiated cells and whether the concepts and molecular pathways are comparable to self-renewal mechanisms in stem cells. Finally, we discuss how improved understanding of macrophage identity and self-renewal could be exploited for therapeutic intervention of macrophage-mediated pathologies by selectively targeting freshly recruited or resident macrophages.

Keywords: macrophage heterogeneity; macrophage origin; macrophage proliferation; macrophage self-renewal; macrophage tissue-specific identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Organ Specificity
  • Phenotype*