Tumor-associated macrophages are transcriptionally heterogeneous, but the spatial distribution and cell interactions that shape macrophage tissue roles remain poorly characterized. Here, we spatially resolve five distinct human macrophage populations in normal and malignant human breast and colon tissue and reveal their cellular associations. This spatial map reveals that distinct macrophage populations reside in spatially segregated micro-environmental niches with conserved cellular compositions that are repeated across healthy and diseased tissue. We show that IL4I1+ macrophages phagocytose dying cells in areas with high cell turnover and predict good outcome in colon cancer. In contrast, SPP1+ macrophages are enriched in hypoxic and necrotic tumor regions and portend worse outcome in colon cancer. A subset of FOLR2+ macrophages is embedded in plasma cell niches. NLRP3+ macrophages co-localize with neutrophils and activate an inflammasome in tumors. Our findings indicate that a limited number of unique human macrophage niches function as fundamental building blocks in tissue.

Significance: This work broadens our understanding of the distinct roles different macrophage populations may exert on cancer growth and reveals potential predictive markers and macrophage population-specific therapy targets.

This content is only available via PDF.
This open access article is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Article PDF first page preview

Article PDF first page preview

Supplementary data