The mononuclear phagocyte system includes macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs), which are usually classified by morphology, phenotypical characteristics, and function. In the last decades, large research communities have gathered substantial knowledge on the roles of these cells in immune homeostasis and anti-infectious defense. However, these communities developed to a degree independent from each other, so that the nomenclature and functions of the numerous DC and macrophage subsets overlap, resulting in the present intense debate about the correct nomenclature. This controversy has also reached the field of experimental nephrology. At present, no mutually accepted way to distinguish renal DC and macrophages is available, so that many important roles in acute and chronic kidney disease have been ascribed to both DCs and macrophages. In this perspective article, we discuss the causes and consequences of the overlapping DC-macrophage classification systems, functional roles of DCs and macrophages, and the transferability of recent findings from other disciplines to the renal mononuclear phagocyte system from the nephrologist's point of view.
Keywords: dendritic cells; flow-cytometry; glomerulonephritis; kidney; macrophages.