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Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 851252, 17 pages
Review Article

Macrophage Heterogeneity and Plasticity: Impact of Macrophage Biomarkers on Atherosclerosis

1Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Research Center, School of Medicine, University of Zulia, Maracaibo 4004, Venezuela
2Endocrinology Department, Maracaibo University Hospital, Maracaibo 4004, Venezuela

Received 15 June 2015; Accepted 9 September 2015

Academic Editor: Alexander Szalai

Copyright © 2015 Joselyn Rojas et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a global epidemic, currently representing the worldwide leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Atherosclerosis is the fundamental pathophysiologic component of CVD, where the immune system plays an essential role. Monocytes and macrophages are key mediators in this aspect: due to their heterogeneity and plasticity, these cells may act as either pro- or anti-inflammatory mediators. Indeed, monocytes may develop heterogeneous functional phenotypes depending on the predominating pro- or anti-inflammatory microenvironment within the lesion, resulting in classic, intermediate, and non-classic monocytes, each with strikingly differing features. Similarly, macrophages may also adopt heterogeneous profiles being mainly M1 and M2, the former showing a proinflammatory profile while the latter demonstrates anti-inflammatory traits; they are further subdivided in several subtypes with more specialized functions. Furthermore, macrophages may display plasticity by dynamically shifting between phenotypes in response to specific signals. Each of these distinct cell profiles is associated with diverse biomarkers which may be exploited for therapeutic intervention, including IL-10, IL-13, PPAR-γ, LXR, NLRP3 inflammasomes, and microRNAs. Direct modulation of the molecular pathways concerning these potential macrophage-related targets represents a promising field for new therapeutic alternatives in atherosclerosis and CVD.