Macrophages: versatile players in renal inflammation and fibrosis

Patrick Ming Kuen Tang, David J. Nikolic-Paterson, Hui Yao Lan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleOtherpeer-review

554 Citations (Scopus)


Macrophages have important roles in immune surveillance and in the maintenance of kidney homeostasis; their response to renal injury varies enormously depending on the nature and duration of the insult. Macrophages can adopt a variety of phenotypes: at one extreme, M1 pro-inflammatory cells contribute to infection clearance but can also promote renal injury; at the other extreme, M2 anti-inflammatory cells have a reparative phenotype and can contribute to the resolution phase of the response to injury. In addition, bone marrow monocytes can differentiate into myeloid-derived suppressor cells that can regulate T cell immunity in the kidney. However, macrophages can also promote renal fibrosis, a major driver of progression to end-stage renal disease, and the CD206 + subset of M2 macrophages is strongly associated with renal fibrosis in both human and experimental diseases. Myofibroblasts are important contributors to renal fibrosis and recent studies provide evidence that macrophages recruited from the bone marrow can transition directly into myofibroblasts within the injured kidney. This process is termed macrophage-to-myofibroblast transition (MMT) and is driven by transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1)–Smad3 signalling via a Src-centric regulatory network. MMT may serve as a key checkpoint for the progression of chronic inflammation into pathogenic fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-158
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Nephrology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

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