Arachidonic Acid Metabolism Controls Macrophage Alternative Activation Through Regulating Oxidative Phosphorylation in PPARγ Dependent Manner

Front Immunol. 2021 Jun 3:12:618501. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2021.618501. eCollection 2021.


Macrophage polarization is mainly steered by metabolic reprogramming in the tissue microenvironment, thus leading to distinct outcomes of various diseases. However, the role of lipid metabolism in the regulation of macrophage alternative activation is incompletely understood. Using human THP-1 and mouse bone marrow derived macrophage polarization models, we revealed a pivotal role for arachidonic acid metabolism in determining the phenotype of M2 macrophages. We demonstrated that macrophage M2 polarization was inhibited by arachidonic acid, but inversely facilitated by its derived metabolite prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Furthermore, PPARγ bridges these two seemingly unrelated processes via modulating oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). Through inhibiting PPARγ, PGE2 enhanced OXPHOS, resulting in the alternative activation of macrophages, which was counterweighted by the activation of PPARγ. This connection between PGE2 biosynthesis and macrophage M2 polarization also existed in human and mouse esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Our results highlight the critical role of arachidonic acid and metabolic PGE2 as immune regulators in modulating tissue homeostasis and pathological process.

Keywords: arachidonic acid metabolism; macrophage alternative activation; oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS); peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARgamma); prostaglandin E2 (PGE2).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism*
  • Esophageal Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Macrophage Activation
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • THP-1 Cells
  • Th2 Cells / immunology


  • PPAR gamma
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Dinoprostone