Dendritic Cells and Macrophages: Sentinels in the Kidney

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Oct 7;10(10):1841-51. doi: 10.2215/CJN.07100714. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


The mononuclear phagocytes (dendritic cells and macrophages) are closely related immune cells with central roles in anti-infectious defense and maintenance of organ integrity. The canonical function of dendritic cells is the activation of T cells, whereas macrophages remove apoptotic cells and microbes by phagocytosis. In the kidney, these cell types form an intricate system of mononuclear phagocytes that surveys against injury and infection and contributes to organ homeostasis and tissue repair but may also promote progression of CKD. This review summarizes the general functions and classification of dendritic cells and macrophages in the immune system and recapitulates why overlapping definitions and historically separate research have created controversy about their tasks. Their roles in acute kidney disease, CKD, and renal transplantation are described, and therapeutic strategy to modify these cells for therapeutic purposes is discussed.

Keywords: immunology; immunology and pathology; immunosuppression; kidney disease; macrophages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Immunotherapy
  • Kidney / cytology*
  • Kidney / immunology*
  • Kidney Diseases / immunology*
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition
  • Urinary Tract Infections / immunology*


  • Receptors, Pattern Recognition