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Immunobiology. 2010 Sep-Oct;215(9-10):788-95. doi: 10.1016/j.imbio.2010.05.020. Epub 2010 Jun 8.

Heme Oxygenase-1 expression in M-CSF-polarized M2 macrophages contributes to LPS-induced IL-10 release.

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Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas, CSIC, Madrid, Spain.


The shift between pro-inflammatory (M1) and anti-inflammatory (M2) states of macrophage polarization allows the resolution of inflammatory processes as well as the maintenance of a basal anti-inflammatory environment in tissues continuously exposed to harmless antigens (e.g., lung and gut). To identify markers for the anti-inflammatory state of macrophages, expression profiling was performed on human macrophages polarized by either GM-CSF or M-CSF, which lead to the generation of TNF-alpha and IL-12p40-producing pro-inflammatory macrophages [M1 (GM-CSF)] or IL-10-producing anti-inflammatory macrophages [M2 (M-CSF)] upon exposure to LPS, respectively. A different iron metabolism gene signature was detected in both macrophage types, with the heme regulatory molecules CD163 and Heme Oxygenase-1 (HO-1) being preferentially expressed by M2 (M-CSF) macrophages. M1-polarizing cytokines (GM-CSF, IFNgamma) inhibited, while IL-4 enhanced, the M-CSF-driven HO-1 expression. In agreement with this in vitro data, HO-1 expression in metastatic melanoma was primarily detected in CD163(+) tumor-associated macrophages, which are known to exhibit an M2-skewed polarization phenotype. In contrast to the HO-1 inhibitor tin protoporphyrin (SnPP), the administration of cobalt protoporphyrin (CoPP), a potent inducer of HO-1 resulted in increased LPS-triggered IL-10 release from M2 (M-CSF) macrophages. The data suggests that HO-1 is important for the anti-inflammatory activities of M-CSF-polarized M2 macrophages. Moreover, since M2 (M-CSF) macrophages also express higher levels of the CD163 scavenger receptor, the CD163/HO-1/IL-10 axis appears to contribute to the generation of an immunosuppressive environment within the tumor stroma.

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