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J Innate Immun. 2010;2(3):204-15. doi: 10.1159/000296507. Epub 2010 Mar 16.

Monocytes and macrophages regulate immunity through dynamic networks of survival and cell death.

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Department of Biological Sciences, GDC College, Vikram University, Ujjain, India.


Monocytes and macrophages are central cells of the innate immune system, responsible for defending against diverse pathogens. While they originate from a common myeloid precursor and share functions in innate immunity, each has a very distinct life span finely tuned by the apoptotic caspases. Normally, circulating monocytes are short-lived and undergo spontaneous apoptosis on a daily basis. Macrophages, however, have a longer life span. In chronic inflammatory diseases and, as recently recognized, in the tumor microenvironment, the inhibition of the apoptotic program promotes monocyte survival contributing to the accumulation of macrophages and the persistence of an inflammatory milieu. A complex network of differentiation factors and inflammatory stimuli determine monocyte/macrophage life span by blocking the apoptotic pathway and activating a myriad of survival pathways. Our understanding of apoptosis has flourished over the last decade, and its relevance in the regulation of the immune system is now indisputable. Nevertheless, how the complicated networks of survival and apoptotic regulators are integrated to determine cellular life span remains elusive. This review summarizes the contribution of the caspases and their regulators in monocyte/macrophage cell fate and discusses how these molecules orchestrate the initiation, maintenance, and resolution of inflammation. More provocatively, we discuss possible strategies to control inflammation by manipulating leukocyte life span.

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