Activation through different signaling pathways results in two functionally different types of macrophages, the pro-inflammatory (M1) and the anti-inflammatory (M2). The polarization of macrophages toward the pro-inflammatory M1 phenotype is considered to be critical for efficient antiviral immune responses in the lung.
Among the various cell types that are present in the asthmatic airways, macrophages have emerged as significant participants in disease pathogenesis, because of their activation during both the inflammatory and resolution phases, with an impact on disease progression. Polarized M1 and M2 macrophages are able to reversibly undergo functional redifferentiation into anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory macrophages, respectively, and therefore, macrophages mediate both processes.
Recent studies have indicated a predominance of M2 macrophages in asthmatic airways. During a virus infection, it is likely that M2 macrophages would secrete higher amounts of the suppressor cytokine IL-10, and less innate IFNs. However, the interactions between IL-10 and innate IFNs during virus-induced exacerbations of asthma have not been well studied.
The possible role of IL-10 as a therapy in allergic asthma has already been suggested, but the divergent roles of this suppressor molecule in the antiviral immune response raise concerns. This review attempts to shed light on macrophage IL-10–IFNs interactions and discusses the role of IL-10 in virus-induced asthma exacerbations. Whereas IL-10 is important in terminating pro-inflammatory and antiviral immune responses, the presence of this immune regulatory cytokine at the beginning of virus infection could impair the response to viruses and play a role in virus-induced asthma exacerbations. © 2014 The Authors. Reviews in Medical Virology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.