Advanced age is associated with changes in alveolar macrophages and their responses to the stress of traumatic injury

J Leukoc Biol. 2022 Dec;112(6):1371-1386. doi: 10.1002/JLB.3HI0620-399RR. Epub 2022 Sep 19.


Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are tissue-resident cells of the lower airways that perform many homeostatic functions critical for pulmonary health and protection against pathogens. However, little is known about the factors that shape AMs during healthy aging. In these studies, we sought to characterize age-related changes in AM phenotype, function, and responses to a physiologic stressor, that is, distal injury. Age was associated with a wide range of changes in cell surface receptor and gene expression by AMs, reflecting a unique alternatively activated phenotype. AMs from aged mice also exhibited markers of cellular senescence along with down-regulation of genes involved in growth and cell cycle pathways relative to young controls. Furthermore, AMs from aged mice showed a stunted transcriptional response to distal injury compared with AMs from young mice. Many changes were found to involve glucocorticoid-regulated genes, and corticosteroid treatment of primary AMs ex vivo revealed diminished transcriptional responses in cells from aged animals. These results demonstrate that there is a complex age-dependent AM phenotype associated with dysregulated stress hormone signaling that may interfere with AM responses to physiologic stressors and could contribute to AM dysfunction and the decline of pulmonary immunity during healthy aging.

Keywords: glucocorticoids; inflammation; injury; lungs; senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lung* / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Alveolar*
  • Mice
  • Signal Transduction