During hemolysis, macrophages in the liver phagocytose damaged erythrocytes to prevent the toxic effects of cell-free hemoglobin and heme. It remains unclear how this homeostatic process modulates phagocyte functions in inflammatory diseases. Using a genetic mouse model of spherocytosis and single-cell RNA sequencing, we found that erythrophagocytosis skewed liver macrophages into an antiinflammatory phenotype that we defined as MarcohiHmoxhiMHC class IIlo erythrophagocytes. This phenotype transformation profoundly mitigated disease expression in a model of an anti-CD40–induced hyperinflammatory syndrome with necrotic hepatitis and in a nonalcoholic steatohepatitis model, representing 2 macrophage-driven sterile inflammatory diseases. We reproduced the antiinflammatory erythrophagocyte transformation in vitro by heme exposure of mouse and human macrophages, yielding a distinctive transcriptional signature that segregated heme-polarized from M1- and M2-polarized cells. Mapping transposase-accessible chromatin in single cells by sequencing defined the transcription factor NFE2L2/NRF2 as a critical driver of erythrophagocytes, and Nfe2l2/Nrf2 deficiency restored heme-suppressed inflammation. Our findings point to a pathway that regulates macrophage functions to link erythrocyte homeostasis with innate immunity.
Marc Pfefferlé, Giada Ingoglia, Christian A. Schaer, Ayla Yalamanoglu, Raphael Buzzi, Irina L. Dubach, Ge Tan, Emilio Y. López-Cano, Nadja Schulthess, Kerstin Hansen, Rok Humar, Dominik J. Schaer, Florence Vallelian
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.