Bioenergetic profiles diverge during macrophage polarization: Implications for the interpretation of 18F-FDG PET imaging of atherosclerosis

Sina Tavakoli, Debora Zamora, Sarah Ullevig, Reto Asmis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Conventional cardiovascular imaging is invaluable for the assessment of late sequelae of atherosclerosis, such as diminished perfusion reserve and luminal stenosis. Molecular imaging provides complementary information about plaque composition and ongoing biologic processes in the vessel wall, allowing the early diagnosis and risk stratification of patients. Detection of enhanced glucose uptake, using 18F-FDG PET, has been proposed as a noninvasive approach to track macrophage activation as a critical event in the development and progression of atherosclerosis. In this study, we determined the impact of macrophage polarization on glucose metabolism and oxidative phosphorylation. Methods: Murine peritoneal macrophages were incubated in the presence of interferon-γ (IFN-γ) plus tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), lipopolysaccharide (LPS), or interleukin-4 (IL-4) to induce classic (M1 and MLPS) or alternative (M2) polarization, respectively. Glucose uptake was measured using 3H-deoxyglucose. Oxidative phosphorylation was evaluated using an extracellular flux analyzer. Mitochondrial DNA copy numbers were quantified by polymerase chain reaction. The expression of glucose transporter-1 (Glut-1), hexokinase-1 and -2 (Hk-1 and Hk-2, respectively), mitochondrial transcription factor-1 (Tfam), and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (Cox-1) was determined by quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Results: Stimulation of macrophages by LPS, but not polarization with either IFN-γ plus TNF-α (M1) or IL-4 (M2), resulted in a 2.5-fold increase in 3H-deoxyglucose uptake. Enhanced glucose uptake by MLPS macrophages paralleled the overexpression of rate-limiting proteins involved in transmembrane transport and intracellular trapping of glucose-that is, Glut-1, Hk-1, and Hk-2. Alternatively polarized M2 macrophages developed a markedly higher spare respiratory capacity than both nonpolarized and classically polarized M1 macrophages. M2 polarization was associated with a 4.6-fold increase in mitochondrial content of the cells, compared with nonpolarized macrophages. The expression of Tfam, a major regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, and Cox-1, a critical component of respiratory chain, was significantly increased in M2 polarized macrophages. Conclusion: Polarization of macrophages induces distinct metabolic profiles with respect to glycolysis versus oxidative phosphorylation, with alternatively polarized macrophages shifting to mitochondria as their main source of adenosine triphosphate. Only MLPS, but not M1 or M2 polarized macrophages, showed increased glucose uptake, suggesting that glucose metabolism is regulated independent of the polarization state and macrophage polarization may not be detectable by 18F-FDG PET. COPYRIGHT

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1661-1667
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nuclear Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2013


  • Glucose uptake
  • Macrophage polarization
  • Oxidative phosphorylation
  • PET

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Bioenergetic profiles diverge during macrophage polarization: Implications for the interpretation of 18F-FDG PET imaging of atherosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this