The mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) is a family of cells of related function that includes bone marrow progenitors, blood monocytes and resident tissue macrophages. Macrophages are effector cells in both innate and acquired immunity. They are a major resident cell population in every organ and their numbers increase in response to proinflammatory stimuli. Their function is highly regulated by a wide range of agonists including lymphokines, cytokines and products of microorganisms. Macrophage biology has been studied most extensively in mice, yet direct comparisons of rodent and human macrophages have revealed many functional differences. In this review, we provide an overview of the equine MPS, describing the variation in the function and phenotype of macrophages depending on their location and the similarities and differences between the rodent, human and equine immune response. We discuss the use of the horse as a large animal model in which to study macrophage biology and pathological processes shared with humans. Finally, following the recent update to the horse genome, facilitating further comparative analysis of regulated gene expression between the species, we highlight the importance of future transcriptomic macrophage studies in the horse, the findings of which may also be applicable to human as well as veterinary research.
- animal model