Macrophage morphology correlates with single-cell diversity and prognosis in colorectal liver metastasis

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It has long been known that in vitro polarized macrophages differ in morphology. Stemming from a conventional immunohistology observation, we set out to test the hypothesis that morphology of tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) in colorectal liver metastasis (CLM) represents a correlate of functional diversity with prognostic significance. Density and morphological metrics of TAMs were measured and correlated with clinicopathological variables. While density of TAMs did not correlate with survival of CLM patients, the cell area identified small (S-TAM) and large (L-TAM) macrophages that were associated with 5-yr disease-free survival rates of 27.8% and 0.2%, respectively (P < 0.0001). RNA sequencing of morphologically distinct macrophages identified LXR/RXR as the most enriched pathway in large macrophages, with up-regulation of genes involved in cholesterol metabolism, scavenger receptors, MERTK, and complement. In single-cell analysis of mononuclear phagocytes from CLM tissues, S-TAM and L-TAM signatures were differentially enriched in individual clusters. These results suggest that morphometric characterization can serve as a simple readout of TAM diversity with strong prognostic significance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Journal of experimental medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2 2020


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