Macrophage heterogeneity and plasticity in tuberculosis

Arshad Khan, Vipul Kumar Singh, Robert L. Hunter, Chinnaswamy Jagannath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


Macrophages are the primary host cells for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis (TB), during its intracellular survival in humans. The pathogen has a remarkable capacity to survive within the hostile environment of macrophages. However, primary infection does not result in active TB disease in most individuals. The majority of individuals remain latently infected, wherein the bacteria are held in check by the host immune response. Nevertheless, such individuals can develop active TB later upon the decline in their immune status. In contrast, in a small fraction of infected individuals, the host immune response fails to control the growth of M. tuberculosis bacilli, and granulomatous TB develops progressively. Elucidating the molecular and phenotypic events that govern the outcome of the infection within macrophages is fundamental to understanding the key features of these cells that could be equally critical in infection control. The molecular details of the M. tuberculosis-macrophage interaction continue to be discerned, and emerging evidence suggests that macrophage population that participate in infection is heterogeneous. While the local environment and developmental origin could influence the phenotypic heterogeneity and functional plasticity of macrophages, M. tuberculosis has also been demonstrated to modulate the polarization of macrophages. In this review, we draw on work investigating specialized macrophage populations and their interactions with M. tuberculosis with respect to pathogenesis and specific immune responses. Understanding the mechanisms that control the repertoire of macrophage phenotypes and behaviors during infection may provide prospects for novel TB control strategies through modulation of immunobiological functions of macrophages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-282
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2019


  • M1 M2 macrophage phenotype
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis, macrophages
  • alveolar macrophages
  • granuloma
  • polarization
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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