The development and function of lung-resident macrophages and dendritic cells

Nat Immunol. 2015 Jan;16(1):36-44. doi: 10.1038/ni.3052.


Gas exchange is the vital function of the lungs. It occurs in the alveoli, where oxygen and carbon dioxide diffuse across the alveolar epithelium and the capillary endothelium surrounding the alveoli, separated only by a fused basement membrane 0.2-0.5 μm in thickness. This tenuous barrier is exposed to dangerous or innocuous particles, toxins, allergens and infectious agents inhaled with the air or carried in the blood. The lung immune system has evolved to ward off pathogens and restrain inflammation-mediated damage to maintain gas exchange. Lung-resident macrophages and dendritic cells are located in close proximity to the epithelial surface of the respiratory system and the capillaries to sample and examine the air-borne and blood-borne material. In communication with alveolar epithelial cells, they set the threshold and the quality of the immune response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / cytology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Lung / cytology
  • Lung / immunology*
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / cytology
  • Macrophages, Alveolar / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / cytology
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / immunology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / cytology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology


  • Cytokines