Tissue-resident macrophages can be generated de novo in adult human skin from resident progenitor cells during substance P-mediated neurogenic inflammation ex vivo

PLoS One. 2020 Jan 23;15(1):e0227817. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227817. eCollection 2020.


Besides monocyte (MO)-derived macrophages (MACs), self-renewing tissue-resident macrophages (trMACs) maintain the intracutaneous MAC pool in murine skin. Here, we have asked whether the same phenomenon occurs in human skin using organ-cultured, full-thickness skin detached from blood circulation and bone marrow. Skin stimulation ex vivo with the neuropeptide substance P (SP), mimicking neurogenic skin inflammation, significantly increased the number of CD68+MACs in the papillary dermis without altering intracutaneous MAC proliferation or apoptosis. Since intraluminal CD14+MOs were undetectable in the non-perfused dermal vasculature, new MACs must have differentiated from resident intracutaneous progenitor cells in human skin. Interestingly, CD68+MACs were often seen in direct cell-cell-contact with cells expressing both, the hematopoietic stem cell marker CD34 and SP receptor (neurokinin-1 receptor [NK1R]). These cell-cell contacts and CD34+cell proliferation were up-regulated in SP-treated skin samples. Collectively, our study provides the first evidence that resident MAC progenitors, from which mature MACs can rapidly differentiate within the tissue, do exist in normal adult human skin. That these NK1R+trMAC-progenitor cells quickly respond to a key stress-associated neuroinflammatory stimulus suggests that this may satisfy increased local MAC demand under conditions of wounding/stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Antigens, CD34 / immunology
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / immunology
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Neurogenic Inflammation / immunology*
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Skin / cytology
  • Skin / immunology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / immunology*
  • Substance P / immunology*


  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, CD34
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • CD68 antigen, human
  • Substance P