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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2015 Nov;53(5):676-88. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2015-0012OC.

Phenotypic, functional, and plasticity features of classical and alternatively activated human macrophages.

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1 Queensland Children's Medical Research Institute, Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia; and.
2 Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.


Macrophages are dynamic cells that mature under the influence of signals from the local microenvironment into either classically (M1) or alternatively (M2) activated macrophages with specific functional and phenotypic properties. Although the phenotypic identification of M1 and M2 macrophages is well established in mice, this is less clear for human macrophages. In addition, the persistence and reversibility of polarized human phenotypes is not well established. Human peripheral blood monocytes were differentiated into uncommitted macrophages (M0) and then polarized to M1 and M2 phenotypes using LPS/IFN-γ and IL-4/IL-13, respectively. M1 and M2 were identified as CD64(+)CD80(+) and CD11b(+)CD209(+), respectively, by flow cytometry. Polarized M1 cells secreted IP-10, IFN-γ, IL-8, TNF-α, IL-1β, and RANTES, whereas M2 cells secreted IL-13, CCL17, and CCL18. Functionally, M2 cells were highly endocytic. In cytokine-deficient medium, the polarized macrophages reverted back to the M0 state within 12 days. If previously polarized macrophages were given the alternative polarizing stimulus after 6 days of resting in cytokine-deficient medium, a switch in polarization was seen (i.e., M1 macrophages switched to M2 and expressed CD11b(+)CD209(+) and vice versa). In summary, we report phenotypic identification of human M1 and M2 macrophages, their functional characteristics, and their ability to be reprogrammed given the appropriate stimuli.


alternatively activated macrophages (AAM/M2); classically activated macrophages (CAM/M1); phagocytosis/endocytosis; phenotypic stability; reprogramming of polarization

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