Polarization of MP into classically activated (M1) and alternatively activated (M2a, M2b, and M2c) macrophages is critical in mediating an effective immune response against invading pathogens. However, several pathogens use these activation pathways to facilitate dissemination and pathogenesis. Viruses generally induce an M1-like phenotype during the acute phase of infection. In addition to promoting the development of Th1 responses and IFN production, M1 macrophages often produce cytokines that drive viral replication and tissue damage. As shown for HIV-1, polarization can also alter macrophage susceptibility to infection. In vitro polarization into M1 cells prevents HIV-1 infection, and M2a polarization inhibits viral replication at a post-integration level. M2a cells also express high levels of C-type lectins that can facilitate macrophage-mediated transmission of HIV-1 to CD4(+) T cells. Macrophages are particularly abundant in mucosal membranes and unlike DCs, do not usually migrate to distal tissues. As a result, macrophages are likely to contribute to HIV-1 pathogenesis in mucosal rather than lymphatic tissues. In vivo polarization of MP is likely to span a spectrum of activation phenotypes that may change the permissivity to and alter the outcome of HIV-1 and other viral infections. J. Leukoc. Biol. 87: 599-608; 2010.
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