Atherosclerotic lesions progress through the continued recruitment of circulating blood monocytes that differentiate into macrophages within plaque. Lesion-associated macrophages are the primary immune cells present in plaque, where they take up cholesterol and store lipids in the form of small droplets resulting in a unique morphology termed foam cell. Recent scientific advances have used single-cell gene expression profiling, live-cell imaging, and fate mapping approaches to describe macrophage and monocyte contributions to pro- or anti-inflammatory mechanisms, in addition to functions of motility and proliferation within lesions. Yet, many questions regarding tissue-specific regulation of monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation and the contribution of recruited monocytes at stages of atherosclerotic disease progression remain unknown. In this review, we highlight recent advances regarding the role of monocyte and macrophage dynamics in atherosclerotic disease and identify gaps in knowledge that we hope will allow for advancing therapeutic treatment or prevention strategies for cardiovascular disease.
Keywords: atherosclerosis; cardiovascular disease; inflammation; macrophage; monocyte; trafficking.