Regulation of renal fibrosis by macrophage polarization

Cell Physiol Biochem. 2015;35(3):1062-9. doi: 10.1159/000373932. Epub 2015 Feb 2.


Background/aims: Since renal fibrosis always predisposes end-stage renal disease, elucidation of the molecular mechanisms that underlie the progression of renal fibrosis may substantially improve the understanding and treatment for renal failure. Previous studies have highlighted an important counteraction between transforming growth factor β 1 (TGFβ1) and bone morphogenic protein 7 (BMP7) in the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of renal tubular epithelial cells during chronic renal injury. Macrophages are also believed to play a critical role in renal fibrosis. However, the relationship between macrophages and EMT is unknown.

Methods: Here, we used a mouse unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) model to address to these questions, and analyzed macrophage and its subpopulations purified by flow cytometry.

Results: We found that the recruited macrophages are polarized to a M2 subtype after renal injury. M2 macrophages released high levels TGFβ1 to suppress BMP7 to enhance EMT-induced renal fibrosis. Depletion of M2 macrophages, but not of M1 macrophages, specifically inhibited EMT, and subsequently the renal fibrosis. Adoptive transplantation of M2 macrophages deteriorated renal fibrosis.

Conclusion: Thus, our study highlights M2 macrophages as a critical target for treating renal fibrosis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7 / genetics*
  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7 / metabolism
  • Cell Polarity / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics
  • Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney / injuries
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Kidney Tubules / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Renal Insufficiency / genetics
  • Renal Insufficiency / pathology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / genetics*
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1 / metabolism
  • Ureteral Obstruction


  • Bone Morphogenetic Protein 7
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta1
  • bmp7 protein, mouse