The role of the local environment and epigenetics in shaping macrophage identity and their effect on tissue homeostasis

Nat Immunol. 2016 Jan;17(1):18-25. doi: 10.1038/ni.3325.


Macrophages provide a critical systemic network cells of the innate immune system. Emerging data suggest that in addition, they have important tissue-specific functions that range from clearance of surfactant from the lungs to neuronal pruning and establishment of gut homeostasis. The differentiation and tissue-specific activation of macrophages require precise regulation of gene expression, a process governed by epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone modification and chromatin structure. We argue that epigenetic regulation of macrophages is determined by lineage- and tissue-specific transcription factors controlled by the built-in programming of myeloid development in combination with signaling from the tissue environment. Perturbation of epigenetic mechanisms of tissue macrophage identity can affect normal macrophage tissue function and contribute to pathologies ranging from obesity and autoimmunity to neurodegenerative diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Cell Lineage / immunology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Homeostasis / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology
  • Macrophages* / cytology
  • Macrophages* / immunology