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Macrophages are increasingly recognised as essential players in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis and as key sentinels of the intestinal immune system. However, somewhat paradoxically, they are also implicated in chronic pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and are therefore considered potential targets for novel therapies. In this review, we will discuss recent advances in our understanding of intestinal macrophage heterogeneity, their ontogeny and the potential factors that regulate their origin. We will describe how the local environment of the intestine imprints the phenotypic and functional identity of the macrophage compartment, and how this changes during intestinal inflammation and infection. Finally, we highlight key outstanding questions that should be the focus of future research.
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