Objective: To determine the presence and spatial distribution of different macrophage phenotypes, governed by granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and macrophage colony-stimulating factor (M-CSF) skewing signals, in giant cell arteritis (GCA) lesions.
Methods: Temporal artery biopsies (TABs, n = 11) from treatment-naive GCA patients, aorta samples from GCA-related aneurysms (n = 10) and atherosclerosis (n = 10) were stained by immunohistochemistry targeting selected macrophage phenotypic markers, cytokines, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and growth factors. In vitro macrophage differentiation (n = 10) followed by flow cytometry, Luminex assay and ELISA were performed to assess whether GM-CSF and M-CSF are drivers of macrophage phenotypic heterogeneity.
Results: A distinct spatial distribution pattern of macrophage phenotypes in TABs was identified. CD206+/MMP-9+ macrophages were located at the site of tissue destruction, whereas FRβ+ macrophages were located in the inner intima of arteries with high degrees of intimal hyperplasia. Notably, this pattern was also observed in macrophage-rich areas in GCA aortas but not in atherosclerotic aortas. Flow cytometry showed that GM-CSF treatment highly upregulated CD206 expression, while FRβ was expressed by M-CSF-skewed macrophages, only. Furthermore, localised expression of GM-CSF and M-CSF was detected, likely contributing to macrophage heterogeneity in the vascular wall.
Conclusions: Our data document a distinct spatial distribution pattern of CD206+/MMP-9+ macrophages and FRβ+ macrophages in GCA linked to tissue destruction and intimal proliferation, respectively. We suggest that these distinct macrophage phenotypes are skewed by sequential GM-CSF and M-CSF signals. Our study adds to a better understanding of the development and functional role of macrophage phenotypes in the pathogenesis of GCA and opens opportunities for the design of macrophage-targeted therapies.