Pulmonary macrophages: key players in the innate defence of the airways

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Macrophages are the most numerous immune-cells present in the lung environment under homoeostatic conditions and are ideally positioned to dictate the innate defence of the airways. Pulmonary macrophage populations are heterogeneous and demonstrate remarkable plasticity, owing to variations in origin, tissue residency and environmental influences. Lung macrophage diversity facilitates considerable specialisation, aids efficient responses to environmental signals and allows rapid alterations in phenotype and physiology in response to a plethora of cytokines and microbial signals. This review describes pulmonary macrophage origins, phenotypes, roles in diseases of the airways and implications for the treatment of respiratory disease.

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