Seminars in Immunopathology

, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 171–184 | Cite as

Intestinal macrophages: differentiation and involvement in intestinal immunopathologies



Intestinal macrophages, preferentially located in the subepithelial lamina propria, represent the largest pool of tissue macrophages in humans. As an adaptation to the local antigen- and bacteria-rich environment, intestinal macrophages exhibit several distinct phenotypic and functional characteristics. Notably, microbe-associated molecular pattern receptors, including the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) receptors CD14 and TLR4, and also the Fc receptors for IgA and IgG are absent on most intestinal macrophages under homeostatic conditions. Moreover, while macrophages in the intestinal mucosa are refractory to the induction of proinflammatory cytokine secretion, they still display potent phagocytic activity. These adaptations allow intestinal macrophages to comply with their main task, i.e., the efficient removal of microbes while maintaining local tissue homeostasis. In this paper, we review recent findings on the functional differentiation of monocyte subsets into distinct macrophage populations and on the phenotypic and functional adaptations that have evolved in intestinal macrophages in response to their antigen-rich environment. Furthermore, the involvement of intestinal macrophages in the pathogenesis of celiac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases is discussed.


Monocytes Macrophages Intestinal mucosa Commensal flora 



The authors would like to thank Ursula Yela for the assistance during the preparation of the manuscript and Jasmin Ossola for the assistance with the preparation of the figures. The present work of the authors is supported by grants of the Swiss National Science Foundation and the 3R Foundation to CM.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Weber
    • 1
  • Leslie Saurer
    • 1
  • Christoph Mueller
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Experimental Pathology, Institute of PathologyUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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