M2 macrophages, but not M1 macrophages, support megakaryopoiesis by upregulating PI3K-AKT pathway activity

Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2021 Jun 18;6(1):234. doi: 10.1038/s41392-021-00627-y.


Dysfunctional megakaryopoiesis hampers platelet production, which is closely associated with thrombocytopenia (PT). Macrophages (MФs) are crucial cellular components in the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment. However, the specific effects of M1 MФs or M2 MФs on regulating megakaryocytes (MKs) are largely unknown. In the current study, aberrant BM-M1/M2 MФ polarization, characterized by increased M1 MФs and decreased M2 MФs and accompanied by impaired megakaryopoiesis-supporting abilities, was found in patients with PT post-allotransplant. RNA-seq and western blot analysis showed that the PI3K-AKT pathway was downregulated in the BM MФs of PT patients. Moreover, in vitro treatment with PI3K-AKT activators restored the impaired megakaryopoiesis-supporting ability of MФs from PT patients. Furthermore, we found M1 MФs suppress, whereas M2 MФs support MK maturation and platelet formation in humans. Chemical inhibition of PI3K-AKT pathway reduced megakaryopoiesis-supporting ability of M2 MФs, as indicated by decreased MK count, colony-forming unit number, high-ploidy distribution, and platelet count. Importantly, genetic knockdown of the PI3K-AKT pathway impaired the megakaryopoiesis-supporting ability of MФs both in vitro and in a MФ-specific PI3K-knockdown murine model, indicating a critical role of PI3K-AKT pathway in regulating the megakaryopoiesis-supporting ability of M2 MФs. Furthermore, our preliminary data indicated that TGF-β released by M2 MФs may facilitate megakaryopoiesis through upregulation of the JAK2/STAT5 and MAPK/ERK pathways in MKs. Taken together, our data reveal that M1 and M2 MФs have opposing effects on MKs in a PI3K-AKT pathway-dependent manner, which may lead to new insights into the pathogenesis of thrombocytopenia and provide a potential therapeutic strategy to promote megakaryopoiesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Middle Aged
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / genetics
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / immunology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • Thrombocytopenia / genetics
  • Thrombocytopenia / immunology*
  • Thrombopoiesis / genetics
  • Thrombopoiesis / immunology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt