Macrophage heterogeneity occurs through a developmental mechanism

Alice L. Witsell, Lawrence B. Schook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The versatility and importance of macrophages in host defense and homeostasis have long been recognized. Anatomically, macrophages isolated from various tissues manifest extreme differences in shape, in metabolic and functional activities, and in the expression of macrophage-specific markers. To determine the mechanisms responsible for generating macrophage heterogeneity, we have employed the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction to molecularly phenotype colonies of bone marrow-derived macrophages during differentiation in vitro. By utilizing this method, results have revealed a hierarchal expression of macrophage-associated genes. Tumor necrosis factor a was expressed in all colonies analyzed suggesting an important role for this molecule during macrophage differentiation. Predominant colony phenotypes observed were unique for (i) the period of differentiation and (ii) the growth factor with which they were derived (either colony-stimulating factor 1 or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor). Exogenous stimulation of the cultures with either bacterial lipopolysaccharide or interferon-γ led to predictable phenotypic transitions. These results suggest that macrophage heterogeneity is generated through differentiation-related mechanisms and that generated macrophage phenotypes are then maintained by systemic environmental constraints.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1963-1967
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1991


  • Clones
  • Differentiation
  • Hematopoiesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General
  • Genetics


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