Macrophages are found across all vertebrate species, reside in virtually all animal tissues, and play critical roles in host protection and homeostasis. Various mechanisms determine and regulate the highly plastic functional phenotypes of macrophages, including antimicrobial host defenses (pro-inflammatory, M1-type), and resolution and repair functions (anti-inflammatory/regulatory, M2-type). The study of inflammatory macrophages in immune defense of teleosts has garnered much attention, and antimicrobial mechanisms of these cells have been extensively studied in various fish models. Intriguingly, both similarities and differences have been documented for the regulation of lower vertebrate macrophage antimicrobial defenses, as compared to what has been described in mammals. Advances in our understanding of the teleost macrophage M2 phenotypes likewise suggest functional conservation through similar and distinct regulatory strategies, compared to their mammalian counterparts. In this review, we discuss the current understanding of the molecular mechanisms governing teleost macrophage functional heterogeneity, including monopoetic development, classical macrophage inflammatory and antimicrobial responses as well as alternative macrophage polarization towards tissues repair and resolution of inflammation.
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