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Barrier-tissue macrophages: functional adaptation to environmental challenges

Abstract

Macrophages are found throughout the body, where they have crucial roles in tissue development, homeostasis and remodeling, as well as being sentinels of the innate immune system that can contribute to protective immunity and inflammation. Barrier tissues, such as the intestine, lung, skin and liver, are exposed constantly to the outside world, which places special demands on resident cell populations such as macrophages. Here we review the mounting evidence that although macrophages in different barrier tissues may be derived from distinct progenitors, their highly specific properties are shaped by the local environment, which allows them to adapt precisely to the needs of their anatomical niche. We discuss the properties of macrophages in steady-state barrier tissues, outline the factors that shape their differentiation and behavior and describe how macrophages change during protective immunity and inflammation.

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Figure 1: Barrier-tissue macrophage function under homeostatic conditions.
Figure 2: Alveolar macrophages in the lung are crucial for maintaining the patency of the alveolar space, where they regulate surfactant levels and phagocytose inhaled microbes and other particulate materials59,61.
Figure 3: Barrier-tissue macrophage function under homeostatic conditions.
Figure 4: Kupffer cells are located at the intersection of the enteric and peripheral circulatory systems.
Figure 5: Macrophages in barrier tissues under nonhomeostatic conditions.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust and The Royal Society (Sir Henry Wellcome Fellowship to C.L.S and a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship to C.C.B).

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Correspondence to Allan McI Mowat or Charlotte L Scott or Calum C Bain.

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Mowat, A., Scott, C. & Bain, C. Barrier-tissue macrophages: functional adaptation to environmental challenges. Nat Med 23, 1258–1270 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nm.4430

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