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J Leukoc Biol. 2006 Dec;80(6):1298-307. Epub 2006 Aug 11.

Biochemical and functional characterization of three activated macrophage populations.

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Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


We generated three populations of macrophages (Mphi) in vitro and characterized each. Classically activated Mphi (Ca-Mphi) were primed with IFN-gamma and stimulated with LPS. Type II-activated Mphi (Mphi-II) were similarly primed but stimulated with LPS plus immune complexes. Alternatively activated Mphi (AA-Mphi) were primed overnight with IL-4. Here, we present a side-by-side comparison of the three cell types. We focus primarily on differences between Mphi-II and AA-Mphi, as both have been classified as M2 Mphi, distinct from Ca-Mphi. We show that Mphi-II more closely resemble Ca-Mphi than they are to AA-Mphi. Mphi-II and Ca-Mphi, but not AA-Mphi, produce high levels of NO and have low arginase activity. AA-Mphi express FIZZ1, whereas neither Mphi-II nor Ca-Mphi do. Mphi-II and Ca-Mphi express relatively high levels of CD86, whereas AA-Mphi are virtually devoid of this costimulatory molecule. Ca-Mphi and Mphi-II are efficient APC, whereas AA-Mphi fail to stimulate efficient T cell proliferation. The differences between Ca-Mphi and Mphi-II are more subtle. Ca-Mphi produce IL-12 and give rise to Th1 cells, whereas Mphi-II produce high levels of IL-10 and thus, give rise to Th2 cells secreting IL-4 and IL-10. Mphi-II express two markers that may be used to identify them in tissue. These are sphingosine kinase-1 and LIGHT (TNF superfamily 14). Thus, Ca-Mphi, Mphi-II, and AA-Mphi represent three populations of cells with different biological functions.

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