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Front. Immunol. | doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.02028

More than suppression: Glucocorticoid action on monocytes and macrophages

  • 1Klinik für Dermatologie, Universität Münster, Germany
  • 2Insitute of Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Münster, Germany

Uncontrolled inflammation is a leading cause of many clinically relevant diseases. Current therapeutic strategies focus mainly on immunosuppression rather than on mechanisms of inflammatory resolution. Glucocorticoids (GCs) are still the most widely used anti-inflammatory drugs. GCs affect most immune cells but there is growing evidence for cell type specific mechanisms. Different subtypes of monocytes and macrophages play a pivotal role both in generation as well as resolution of inflammation. Activation of these cells by microbial products or endogenous danger signals results in production of pro-inflammatory mediators and initiation of an inflammatory response. GCs efficiently inhibit these processes by down-regulating pro-inflammatory mediators from macrophages and monocytes.
On the other hand, GCs act on “naïve” monocytes and macrophages and induce anti-inflammatory mediators and differentiation of anti-inflammatory phenotypes. GC-induced anti-inflammatory monocytes have an increased ability to migrate towards inflammatory stimuli. They remove endo- and exogenous danger signals by an increased phagocytic capacity, produce anti-inflammatory mediators and limit T-cell activation.
Thus GCs limit amplification of inflammation by repressing pro-inflammatory macrophage activation and additionally induce anti-inflammatory monocyte and macrophage populations actively promoting resolution of inflammation. Further investigation of these mechanisms should lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies to modulate undesirable inflammation with fewer side effects via induction of inflammatory resolution rather than non-specific immunosuppression.

Keywords: macrophage, monocyte, Glucocorticoids, Anti-infammatory, resolution of inflammation

Received: 28 May 2019; Accepted: 12 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Ehrchen, Roth and Barczyk-Kahlert. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Jan M. Ehrchen, Klinik für Dermatologie, Universität Münster, Münster, 48149, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany,