Research ArticleMACROPHAGES

IRF5 guides monocytes toward an inflammatory CD11c+ macrophage phenotype and promotes intestinal inflammation

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Science Immunology  22 May 2020:
Vol. 5, Issue 47, eaax6085
DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.aax6085

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Targeting overzealous macrophages

Intestinal homeostasis relies on maintenance of a complex set of interactions between intestinal microbiota and the intestinal immune system. Pathogens that colonize the gut invariably disrupt these interactions and promote intestinal inflammation. Here, Corbin et al. have used a mouse pathobiont, Helicobacter hepaticus, that causes inflammation akin to human inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) to study the role of intestinal macrophages in driving inflammation. Using this model, they found the transcription factor IRF5 to be a critical regulator of macrophage inflammatory potential and that deletion of IRF5 rendered mice resistant to H. hepaticus–driven intestinal inflammation. Their studies propose IRF5 and molecules upstream of IRF5 to be potential drug targets in the treatment of human IBD.


Mononuclear phagocytes (MNPs) are vital for maintaining intestinal homeostasis but, in response to acute microbial stimulation, can also trigger immunopathology, accelerating recruitment of Ly6Chi monocytes to the gut. The regulators that control monocyte tissue adaptation in the gut remain poorly understood. Interferon regulatory factor 5 (IRF5) is a transcription factor previously shown to play a key role in maintaining the inflammatory phenotype of macrophages. Here, we investigate the impact of IRF5 on the MNP system and physiology of the gut at homeostasis and during inflammation. We demonstrate that IRF5 deficiency has a limited impact on colon physiology at steady state but ameliorates immunopathology during Helicobacter hepaticus–induced colitis. Inhibition of IRF5 activity in MNPs phenocopies global IRF5 deficiency. Using a combination of bone marrow chimera and single-cell RNA-sequencing approaches, we examined the intrinsic role of IRF5 in controlling colonic MNP development. We demonstrate that IRF5 promotes differentiation of Ly6Chi monocytes into CD11c+ macrophages and controls the production of antimicrobial and inflammatory mediators by these cells. Thus, we identify IRF5 as a key transcriptional regulator of the colonic MNP system during intestinal inflammation.

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