Skewed macrophage polarization in aging skeletal muscle

Aging Cell. 2019 Dec;18(6):e13032. doi: 10.1111/acel.13032. Epub 2019 Sep 2.


Skeletal muscle aging is a major cause of disability and frailty in the elderly. The progressive impairment of skeletal muscle function with aging was recently linked to a disequilibrium between damage and repair. Macrophages participate in muscle tissue repair, first as pro-inflammatory M1 subtype and then as anti-inflammatory M2 subtype. However, information on the presence of macrophages in skeletal muscle is still sporadic and the effect of aging on macrophage phenotype remains unknown. In this study, we sought to characterize the polarization status of macrophages in skeletal muscle of persons across a wide range of ages. We found that most macrophages in human skeletal muscle are M2, and that this number increased with advancing age. On the contrary, M1 macrophages declined with aging, making the total number of macrophages invariant with older age. Notably, M2 macrophages colocalized with increasing intermuscular adipose tissue (IMAT) in aging skeletal muscle. Similarly, aged BALB/c mice showed increased IMAT and M2 macrophages in skeletal muscle, accompanied by slightly increased collagen protein production. Collectively, we report that polarization of macrophages to the major M2 subtype is associated with IMAT and propose that increased M2 in aged skeletal muscle may impact upon muscle metabolism associated with aging.

Keywords: IMAT; aging; macrophages; polarization; skeletal muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cellular Senescence*
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / cytology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism*