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Frozen shoulder is a spontaneously self-resolving chronic inflammatory fibrotic human disease, which distinguishes the condition from most fibrotic diseases that are progressive and irreversible. Using single-cell analysis, we identify pro-inflammatory MERTKlowCD48+ macrophages and MERTK + LYVE1 + MRC1+ macrophages enriched for negative regulators of inflammation which co-exist in frozen shoulder capsule tissues. Micro-cultures of patient-derived cells identify integrin-mediated cell-matrix interactions between MERTK+ macrophages and pro-resolving DKK3+ and POSTN+ fibroblasts, suggesting that matrix remodelling plays a role in frozen shoulder resolution. Cross-tissue analysis reveals a shared gene expression cassette between shoulder capsule MERTK+ macrophages and a respective population enriched in synovial tissues of rheumatoid arthritis patients in disease remission, supporting the concept that MERTK+ macrophages mediate resolution of inflammation and fibrosis. Single-cell transcriptomic profiling and spatial analysis of human foetal shoulder tissues identify MERTK + LYVE1 + MRC1+ macrophages and DKK3+ and POSTN+ fibroblast populations analogous to those in frozen shoulder, suggesting that the template to resolve fibrosis is established during shoulder development. Crosstalk between MerTK+ macrophages and pro-resolving DKK3+ and POSTN+ fibroblasts could facilitate resolution of frozen shoulder, providing a basis for potential therapeutic resolution of persistent fibrotic diseases.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Commun

Publication Date





Humans, c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase, Bursitis, Inflammation, Synovial Membrane, Fibrosis