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Clinical and Translational Medicine

, 3:63

Clinical and Translational Cardiovascular Medicine


The emerging understanding of macrophage subsets and their functions in the atherosclerotic plaque has led to the consensus that M1 macrophages are pro-atherogenic while M2 macrophages may promote plaque stability, primarily though their tissue repair and anti-inflammatory properties. As such, modulating macrophage function to promote plaque stability is an exciting therapeutic prospect. This review will outline the involvement of the different macrophage subsets throughout atherosclerosis progression and in models of regression. It is evident that much of our understanding of macrophage function comes from in vitro or small animal models and, while such knowledge is valuable, we have much to learn about the roles of the macrophage subsets in the clinical setting in order to identify the key pathways to target to possibly promote plaque stability.

KeywordsMacrophage Cardiovascular disease Atherosclerosis Plaque stability M1 M2 Review AbbreviationsABCA1ATP-binding cassette, sub-family A member 1

ABCG1ATP-binding cassette sub-family G member 1

ADRPAdipose differentiation-related protein



ATFActivating transcription factor

CCR7Chemokine C-C motif receptor 7

CXCL4Chemokine C-X-C motif ligand 4

ECEndothelial cell

ECMExtra cellular matrix

EREndoplasmic reticulum

GM-CSFGranulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor

HDLHigh density lipoprotein




LDLLow density lipoprotein


LXRLiver x receptor

M1Type 1 macrophage

M2Type 2 macrophage

M4CXCL4 derived macrophage

M-MacM-CSF derived macrophage

MCP-1Monocyte chemotactic protein 1

M-CSFMacrophage colony stimulating factor

MERTKMER proto-oncogene, tyrosine kinase

MhemHaeme directed macrophage

MoxOxidised phospholipid derived macrophages

MRMannose receptor

MTORMechanistic target of rapamcyin

OxLDLOxidised LDL

PPARγPeroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma

SMCSmooth muscle cells

STATSignal transducer and activator of transcription

TGFβTransforming growth factor beta

Th 1T helper cell type 1 cytokines

TNFTumour necrosis factor

Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1186-s40169-014-0042-1 contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: Heather J Medbury - Helen Williams - John P Fletcher


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