Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA)-associated vasculitides (AAV) are characterized by inflammation of small-to-medium-sized blood vessels and the presence of autoantibodies against cytoplasmic proteases sited in neutrophils and monocytes. Increasing evidence indicates a substantial role of monocytes and macrophages in the pathogenesis of AAV. Activated monocytes and macrophages contribute to necroinflammation in peripheral vasculitic lesions as well as to central and peripheral mechanisms of autoimmunity. The intermediate monocyte subset (CD14++CD16+) is increased and monocytes show elevated expression of CD14, Toll-like receptor 2/4, MHCII and integrins, likely reflecting activation and increased monocyte extravasation. Monocytes differentiate locally predominantly into alternatively activated (M2) macrophages, which are known for cell-clearance and phagocytosis, but may ultimately lead to fibrosis. Phagocytotic function of macrophages can be impaired by surface expression of cytoplasmic proteases on apoptotic neutrophils and causes release of inflammatory cytokines and immunogenic contents, presumably resulting in a vicious circle of increased neutrophil, T and B cell activation and consequent ANCA production. Considering their crucial role in initiating necroinflammation as well as fibrogenesis, monocytes and macrophages may represent a logic first-line target for new treatment options in AAV.
Keywords: ANCA-associated vasculitis; Macrophage; Monocyte; Polarization.
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