Dual polarization of human alveolar macrophages progressively increases with smoking and COPD severity

Respir Res. 2017 Feb 23;18(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s12931-017-0522-0.


Background: It is known that tissue macrophages derive not only from blood monocytes but also from yolk sac or fetal liver, and the tissue of residence guides their function. When isolated, they lose tissue specific signatures, hence studies of human macrophages should be ideally done directly in the tissue. The aim of this study was to investigate directly in human lung tissue the polarization of alveolar macrophage (AM), classic (M1) or alternative (M2), in health and disease, using COPD as a model.

Methods: Surgical lungs from 53 subjects were studied: 36 smokers whose FEV1 varied from normal to severe COPD, 11 non-smokers and 6 normal donors. iNOS and CD206 immunohistochemistry was used to quantify the percentage of AM polarized as M1 or M2 in lung sections. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION: The percentage of M1 and M2 increased progressively with smoking and COPD severity, from 26% to 84% for M1 and from 7% to 78% for M2. In donors 74% of AM were negative for M1 and 93% for M2. Confocal microscopy showed co-localization of M1 and M2 in the same AM in severe COPD.

Conclusion: In normal lungs alveolar macrophages were mostly non-polarized. With smoking and COPD severity, M1 and M2 polarization increased significantly and so did the co-expression of M1 and M2 in the same alveolar macrophage.

Keywords: COPD; Cigarette smoking; M1; M2; Macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / pathology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Smoking / immunology*
  • Smoking / pathology*