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On macrophage diversity and inflammatory metabolic timers

Key papers were published in 2019 that solidify the notion that macrophage gene expression is remarkably diverse; single-cell sequencing combined with new macrophage-specific genetic tools has provided unexpected insights into the tissue-specific and inflammatory diversity of macrophages. In addition, a new mechanism of inflammatory control of macrophage diversity based on lactate-mediated histone modifications was discovered.

Key advances

  • Single-cell sequencing revealed unexpected macrophage diversity in all organs examined so far.

  • Major differences were reported in gene expression between human and mouse macrophages in the setting of lung cancer, whereas gene expression in other immune cell populations closely correlated between species.

  • New macrophage-specific Cre deleters have been developed and tested.

  • An unexpected ‘timing’ mechanism mediated by lactate seems to control macrophage inflammatory transitions.

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Fig. 1: Hypothetical perspective for the lactate ‘timer’ model proposed by Zhang et al.7


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The author thanks K. C. El Kasmi (Boehringer Ingelheim) for discussions.

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Correspondence to Peter J. Murray.

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The author declares no competing interests.

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Murray, P.J. On macrophage diversity and inflammatory metabolic timers. Nat Rev Immunol 20, 89–90 (2020).

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