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Immunol Lett. 2003 Jan 22;85(2):173-80.

Macrophages in chronic type 2 inflammation have a novel phenotype characterized by the abundant expression of Ym1 and Fizz1 that can be partly replicated in vitro.

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Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK.


Using a murine model of nematode infection, we have discovered macrophages that display a novel phenotype that may be characteristic of macrophages in chronic type 2 inflammation. These nematode-elicited macrophages (NeMphi) are characterized by two unique features: the ability to actively suppress proliferation of a broad range of cell types and the high level expression of two novel macrophage genes, Ym1 and Fizz1. NeMphi also show some similarities with in vitro-derived 'alternatively activated macrophages' such as the downregulation of inflammatory cytokines. We therefore investigated how much of the phenotype discovered in vivo could be replicated by activation with Th2 cytokines in vitro. Fizz1 and Ym1 were upregulated by IL-4 and IL-13 in vitro but at a considerably lower level than in NeMphi. In vitro treatment with IL-4 could also partly replicate the ability of NeMphi to block cellular proliferation. As well as the quantitative differences in gene expression and suppressive phenotype, we also observed phenotypic differences in the cell morphology between macrophages activated in vivo and in vitro. Although this study illustrated that macrophages activated in chronic inflammation have distinct features that cannot be readily reproduced in vitro it also demonstrated that some features of the complex NeMphi phenotype can be replicated by treatment of cultured macrophages with Th2 cytokines. In future, we hope to use in vitro analysis to help define the pathways that lead to this distinctive in vivo macrophage phenotype.

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