A subset of Kupffer cells regulates metabolism through the expression of CD36

Immunity. 2021 Sep 14;54(9):2101-2116.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2021.08.006. Epub 2021 Aug 31.


Tissue macrophages are immune cells whose phenotypes and functions are dictated by origin and niches. However, tissues are complex environments, and macrophage heterogeneity within the same organ has been overlooked so far. Here, we used high-dimensional approaches to characterize macrophage populations in the murine liver. We identified two distinct populations among embryonically derived Kupffer cells (KCs) sharing a core signature while differentially expressing numerous genes and proteins: a major CD206loESAM- population (KC1) and a minor CD206hiESAM+ population (KC2). KC2 expressed genes involved in metabolic processes, including fatty acid metabolism both in steady-state and in diet-induced obesity and hepatic steatosis. Functional characterization by depletion of KC2 or targeted silencing of the fatty acid transporter Cd36 highlighted a crucial contribution of KC2 in the liver oxidative stress associated with obesity. In summary, our study reveals that KCs are more heterogeneous than anticipated, notably describing a subpopulation wired with metabolic functions.

Keywords: CD206; CD36; Kupffer cells; heterogeneity; high fat diet; liver; macrophages; metabolism; scRNA-seq; single cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD36 Antigens / metabolism*
  • Kupffer Cells / metabolism*
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*


  • CD36 Antigens