TNFα and IFNγ cooperate for efficient pro- to anti-inflammatory transition of macrophages during muscle regeneration

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2022 Nov;119(44):e2209976119. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2209976119. Epub 2022 Oct 24.


IFNγ is traditionally known as a proinflammatory cytokine with diverse roles in antimicrobial and antitumor immunity. Yet, findings regarding its sources and functions during the regeneration process following a sterile injury are conflicting. Here, we show that natural killer (NK) cells are the main source of IFNγ in regenerating muscle. Beyond this cell population, IFNγ production is limited to a small population of T cells. We further show that NK cells do not play a major role in muscle regeneration following an acute injury or in dystrophic mice. Surprisingly, the absence of IFNγ per se also has no effect on muscle regeneration following an acute injury. However, the role of IFNγ is partially unmasked when TNFα is also neutralized, suggesting a compensatory mechanism. Using transgenic mice, we showed that conditional inhibition of IFNGR1 signaling in muscle stem cells or fibro-adipogenic progenitors does not play a major role in muscle regeneration. In contrast to common belief, we found that IFNγ is not present in the early inflammatory phase of the regeneration process but rather peaks when macrophages are acquiring an anti-inflammatory phenotype. Further transcriptomic analysis suggests that IFNγ cooperates with TNFα to regulate the transition of macrophages from pro- to anti-inflammatory states. The absence of the cooperative effect of these cytokines on macrophages, however, does not result in significant regeneration impairment likely due to the presence of other compensatory mechanisms. Our findings support the arising view of IFNγ as a pleiotropic inflammatory regulator rather than an inducer of the inflammatory response.

Keywords: IFNγ; TNFα; macrophages; muscle regeneration; natural killer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Macrophages*
  • Mice
  • Muscles
  • Regeneration
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha*


  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interferon-gamma
  • Cytokines
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents