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J Asthma Allergy. 2016 Jun 3;9:101-7. doi: 10.2147/JAA.S104508. eCollection 2016.

Update on the role of alternatively activated macrophages in asthma.

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Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.


Lung macrophages link innate and adaptive immune responses during allergic airway inflammatory responses. Alveolar macrophages (AMs) and interstitial macrophages are two different phenotypes that differentially exert immunological function under physiological and pathological conditions. Exposure to pathogen induces polarization of AM cells into classically activated macrophages (M1 cells) and alternatively activated macrophages (M2 cells). M1 cells dominantly express proinflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α and IL-1 β and induce lung inflammation and tissue damage. M2 cells are further divided into M2a and M2c subsets. M2a cells dominantly produce allergic cytokines IL-4 and IL-13, but M2c cells dominantly produce anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10. M2a and M2c cells are differently involved in initiation, inflammation resolution, and tissue remodeling in the different stages of asthma. Microenvironment dynamically influences polarization of AM cells. Cytokines, chemokines, and immune-regulatory cells interplay and affect the balance between the polarization of M1 and M2 cells, subsequently influencing disease progression. Thus, modulation of AM phenotypes through molecular intervention has therapeutic potential in the treatment of asthma and other allergic inflammatory diseases. This review updated recent advances in polarization and functional specialization of these macrophage subtypes with emphasis on modulation of polarization of M2 cells in asthma of human subjects and animal models.


M2 cells; alternatively activated macrophages; asthma; cytokines; macrophage polarization

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