The classical view of the Th1/Th2 paradigm posits that the pathogen nature, infectious cycle, and persistence represent key parameters controlling the choice of effector mechanisms operating during an immune response. Thus, efficient Th1 responses are triggered by replicating intracellular pathogens, while Th2 responses would control helminth infection and promote tissue repair during the resolution phase of an infectious event. However, this vision does not account for a growing body of data describing how pathogens exploit the polarization of the host immune response to their own benefit. Recently, the study of macrophages has illustrated a novel aspect of this arm race between pathogens and the immune system, and the central role of macrophages in homeostasis, repair and defense of all tissues is now fully appreciated. Like T lymphocytes, macrophages differentiate into distinct effectors including classically (M1) and alternatively (M2) activated macrophages. Interestingly, in addition to represent immune effectors, M1/M2 cells have been shown to represent potential reservoir cells to a wide range of intracellular pathogens. Subversion of macrophage cell metabolism by microbes appears as a recently uncovered immune escape strategy. Upon infection, several microbial agents have been shown to activate host metabolic pathways leading to the production of nutrients necessary to their long-term persistence in host. The purpose of this review is to summarize and discuss the strategies employed by pathogens to manipulate macrophage differentiation, and in particular their basic cell metabolism, to favor their own growth while avoiding immune control.
Keywords: PPARs; amino acid metabolism; hypoxia; immune escape strategy; infection; iron; macrophage polarization; metabolic switch.