This intriguing work from Chen and coworkers lends further explanation to the role of bacteria in chronic wounds as well as the role of M1 (pro inflammatory) and M2 (pro repair) macrophages. For more on these types cells, see these figures.
Macrophages play critical roles in wound healing process. They switch from “classically activated” (M1) phenotype in the early inflammatory phase to “alternatively activated” (M2) phenotype in the later healing phase. However, the dynamic process of macrophage phenotype switching in diabetic wounds burdened with bacteria is unclear. In this report, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, frequently detected in diabetic foot ulcers, was inoculated into cutaneous wounds of db/db diabetic mice to mimic bacterium-infected diabetic wound healing. We observed that P. aeruginosa infection impaired diabetic wound healing and quickly promoted the expression of pro-inflammatory genes (M1 macrophage markers) tumor necrosis factor-α (tnf-α), interleukin-1β (il-1β) and il-6 in wounds. The expression of markers of M2 macrophages, including il-10, arginase-1 and ym1 were also upregulated. In addition, similar gene expression patterns were observed in macrophages isolated directly from wounds. Immunostaining showed that P. aeruginosa infection increased both the ratios of M1 and M2 macrophages in wounds compared with that in control groups, which was further confirmed by in vitro culturing macrophages with P. aeruginosa and skin fibroblast conditioned medium. However, the ratios of the expression level of pro-inflammatory genes to anti-inflammatory gene il-10 was increased markedly in P. aeruginosa infected wounds and macrophages compared with that in control groups, and P. aeruginosa prolonged the presence of M1 macrophages in the wounds. These data demonstrated that P. aeruginosa in diabetic wounds activates a mixed M1/M2 macrophage phenotype with an excessive activation of M1 phenotype or relatively inadequate activation of M2 phenotype.