Macrophages are a heterogeneous group of cells that have a multitude of functions depending on their differentiation state. While classically known for their phagocytic and antigen presentation abilities, it is now evident that these cells fulfill homeostatic functions beyond the elimination of invading pathogens. In addition, macrophages have also been implicated in the downregulation of inflammatory responses following pathogen removal, tissue remodeling, repair, and angiogenesis. Alterations in macrophage differentiation and/or activity due to xenobiotic exposure can have grave consequences on organismal homeostasis, potentially contributing to disease due to immunosuppression or chronic inflammatory responses, depending upon the pathways affected. In this chapter, we provide an overview of the macrophages subtypes, their origin and a general discussion of several different assays used to assess their functional status.
Keywords: Antigen presentation; Autophagy; Cytokine secretion; Flow cytometry; Macrophage; Monocyte; Phagocytosis; Phenotypic analysis; Reactive nitrogen species; Reactive oxygen species.