Macrophages play a fundamental role in the immune system. Depending on the microenvironment stimuli, macrophages can acquire distinct phenotypes characterized with different sets of the markers of their functional activities. Polarization of macrophages towards M1 type (classical activation) is involved in inflammation and the related progression of diseases, while, in contrast, alternatively activated M2 macrophages are associated with the anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Reprogramming macrophages to switch their phenotypes could provide a new therapeutic strategy, and targeting the M1/M2 macrophage balance is a promising current trend in pharmacology. Marine invertebrates are a vast source of the variety of structurally diverse compounds with potent pharmacological activities. For years, a large number of studies concerning the immunomodulatory properties of the marine substances have been run with using some intracellular markers of immune stimulation or suppression irrespective of the possible application of marine compounds in reprogramming of macrophage activation, and only few reports clearly demonstrated the macrophage-polarizing activities of some marine compounds during the last decade. In this review, the data on the immunomodulating effects of the extracts and pure compounds of a variety of chemical structure from species of different classes of marine invertebrates are described with focus on their potential in shifting M1/M2 macrophage balance towards M1 or M2 phenotype.
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