International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology: Chapter Five - Macrophages as key regulators of liver health and disease

Elsevier, International Review of Cell and Molecular Biology, Volume 368, 2022, Pages 143-212
Eleni Papachristoforou and Prakash Ramachandran

Macrophages are a heterogeneous population of innate immune cells and key cellular components of the liver. Hepatic macrophages consist of embryologically-derived resident Kupffer cells (KC), recruited monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) and capsular macrophages. Both the diversity and plasticity of hepatic macrophage subsets explain their different functions in the maintenance of hepatic homeostasis and in injury processes in acute and chronic liver diseases. In this review, we assess the evidence for macrophage involvement in regulating both liver health and injury responses in liver diseases including acute liver injury (ALI), chronic liver disease (CLD) (including liver fibrosis) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In healthy livers, KC display critical functions such as phagocytosis, danger signal recognition, cytokine release, antigen processing and the ability to orchestrate immune responses and maintain immunological tolerance. However, in most liver diseases there is a striking hepatic MDM expansion, which orchestrate both disease progression and regression. Single-cell approaches have transformed our understanding of liver macrophage heterogeneity, dynamics, and functions in both human samples and preclinical models. We will further discuss the new insights provided by these approaches and how they are enabling high-fidelity work to specifically identify pathogenic macrophage subpopulations. Given the important role of macrophages in regulating injury responses in a broad range of settings, there is now a huge interest in developing new therapeutic strategies aimed at targeting macrophages. Therefore, we also review the current approaches being used to modulate macrophage function in liver diseases and discuss the therapeutic potential of targeting macrophage subpopulations as a novel treatment strategy for patients with liver disorders.