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Open Access Research

M2 macrophages exhibit higher sensitivity to oxLDL-induced lipotoxicity than other monocyte/macrophage subtypes

Suleiman A Isa, José S Ruffino, Maninder Ahluwalia, Andrew W Thomas, Keith Morris and Richard Webb*

Author Affiliations

Cardiff School of Health Sciences, University of Wales Institute Cardiff, UWIC Llandaf Campus, CARDIFF CF5 2YB, UK

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Lipids in Health and Disease 2011, 10:229  doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-229

Published: 6 December 2011

Abstract

Background

In obesity, phenotypic switches occur in macrophage populations such that the predominantly M2-polarised anti-inflammatory state seen in lean individuals changes to a predominantly M1-polarised pro-inflammatory state in those who are obese. However, the mechanisms by which these phenotypic shifts occur have not yet been fully elucidated.

Results

The effects of oxLDL (1-40 μg/ml; 24 h) on several parameters relevant to the Unfolded Protein Response (UPR)-mediated lipotoxic effects of oxLDL (disruption of ER Ca2+ handling; activation of the UPR transcription factor XBP-1; upregulation of the UPR target genes BiP and CHOP; apoptosis; cell viability) were investigated in human primary monocyte-derived macrophages, and also in monocyte-macrophages derived from the THP-1 monocytic cell line. A consistent pattern was observed: M2-polarised macrophages were more sensitive to the lipotoxic effects of oxLDL than either non-polarised macrophages or non-differentiated monocytic cells. Specifically, M2-polarised macrophages were the only cell type to undergo significantly increased apoptosis (Primary cells: 1.23 ± 0.01 basal; THP-1-derived: 1.97 ± 0.12 basal; P < 0.05 in both cases) and decreased cell viability (Primary cells: 0.79 ± 0.04 basal; THP-1-derived: 0.67 ± 0.02 basal; P < 0.05 in both cases) when exposed to oxLDL levels similar to those seen in overweight individuals (ie. 1 μg/ml).

Conclusions

We propose that the enhanced susceptibility of M2-polarised macrophages to lipotoxicity seen in the present in vitro study could, over time, contribute to the phenotypic shift seen in obese individuals in vivo. This is because a higher degree of oxLDL-induced lipotoxic cell death within M2 macrophages could contribute to a decrease in numbers of M2 cells, and thus a relative increase in proportion of non-M2 cells, within macrophage populations. Given the pro-inflammatory characteristics of a predominantly M1-polarised state, the data presented here may constitute a useful contribution to our understanding of the origin of the pro-inflammatory nature of obesity, and of the pathogenesis of obesity-associated inflammatory disorders such as Type 2 Diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Keywords:
alternative M2 monocyte/macrophage polarisation; UPR; oxLDL; lipotoxicity