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Intestinal Mononuclear Phagocytes in Health and Disease

Review article
Authors T. J. Sanders
Ulf Yrlid
K. J. Maloy
Published in Microbiology Spectrum
Volume 5
Issue 1
Publication year 2017
Published at Institute of Biomedicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Language en
Keywords cd103(+) dendritic cells, inflammatory-bowel-disease, regulatory, t-cells, innate lymphoid-cells, lamina propria, crohns-disease, oral, tolerance, ulcerative-colitis, retinoic-acid, citrobacter rodentium, Microbiology
Subject categories Microbiology, Microbiology in the medical area


The intestine is the tissue of the body with the highest constitutive exposure to foreign antigen and is also a common entry portal for many local and systemic pathogens. Therefore, the local immune system has the unenviable task of balancing efficient responses to dangerous pathogens with tolerance toward beneficial microbiota and food antigens. As in most tissues, the decision between tolerance and immunity is critically governed by the activity of local myeloid cells. However, the unique challenges posed by the intestinal environment have necessitated the development of several specialized mononuclear phagocyte populations with distinct phenotypic and functional characteristics that have vital roles in maintaining barrier function and immune homeostasis in the intestine. Intestinal mononuclear phagocyte populations, comprising dendritic cells and macrophages, are crucial for raising appropriate active immune responses against ingested pathogens. Recent technical advances, including microsurgical approaches allowing collection of cells migrating in intestinal lymph, intravital microscopy, and novel gene-targeting approaches, have led to clearer distinctions between mononuclear phagocyte populations in intestinal tissue. In this review, we present an overview of the various subpopulations of intestinal mononuclear phagocytes and discuss their phenotypic and functional characteristics. We also outline their roles in host protection from infection and their regulatory functions in maintaining immune tolerance toward beneficial intestinal antigens.

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