The impact of ageing on monocytes and macrophages

Immunol Lett. 2021 Feb:230:1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2020.12.003. Epub 2020 Dec 10.


Ageing is a global burden. Increasing age is associated with increased incidence of infections and cancer and decreased vaccine efficacy. This increased morbidity observed with age, is believed to be due in part to a decline in adaptive immunity, termed immunosenescence. However not all aspects of immunity decrease with age as ageing presents with systemic low grade chronic inflammation, characterised by elevated concentrations of mediators such as IL-6, TNFα and C Reactive protein (CRP). Inflammation is a strong predictor of morbidity and mortality, and chronic inflammation is known to be detrimental to a functioning immune system. Although the source of the inflammation is much discussed, the key cells which are believed to facilitate the inflammageing phenomenon are the monocytes and macrophages. In this review we detail how macrophage and monocyte phenotype and function change with age. The impact of ageing on macrophages includes decreased phagocytosis and immune resolution, increased senescent-associated markers, increased inflammatory cytokine production, reduced autophagy, and a decrease in TLR expression. With monocytes there is an increase in circulating CD16+ monocytes, decreased type I IFN production, and decreased efferocytosis. In conclusion, we believe that monocytes and macrophages contribute to immunosenescence and inflammageing and as a result have an important role in defective immunity with age.

Keywords: Ageing; Immunosenescence; Inflammageing; Macrophages; Monocytes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunosenescence
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Monocytes / immunology*