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Description of macrophage activation is currently contentious and confusing. Like the biblical Tower of Babel, macrophage activation encompasses a panoply of descriptors used in different ways. The lack of consensus on how to define macrophage activation in experiments in vitro and in vivo impedes progress in multiple ways, including the fact that many researchers still consider there to be only two types of activated macrophages, often termed M1 and M2. Here, we describe a set of standards encompassing three principles-the source of macrophages, definition of the activators, and a consensus collection of markers to describe macrophage activation-with the goal of unifying experimental standards for diverse experimental scenarios. Collectively, we propose a common framework for macrophage-activation nomenclature.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





14 - 20


Departments of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA. Electronic address:


Macrophages, Animals, Humans, Mice, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor, Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor, Macrophage Activation, Research, Terminology as Topic, Guidelines as Topic