Although renal macrophages have been shown to contribute to cyst development in polycystic kidney disease (PKD) animal models, it remains unclear whether there is a specific macrophage subpopulation involved. Here, we analyzed changes in macrophage populations during renal maturation in association with cystogenesis rates in conditional Pkd2 mutant mice. We observed that CD206+ resident macrophages were minimal in a normal adult kidney but accumulated in cystic areas in adult-induced Pkd2 mutants. Using Cx3cr1 null mice, we reduced macrophage number, including CD206+ macrophages, and showed that this significantly reduced cyst severity in adult-induced Pkd2 mutant kidneys. We also found that the number of CD206+ resident macrophage-like cells increased in kidneys and in the urine from autosomal-dominant PKD (ADPKD) patients relative to the rate of renal functional decline. These data indicate a direct correlation between CD206+ resident macrophages and cyst formation, and reveal that the CD206+ resident macrophages in urine could serve as a biomarker for renal cystic disease activity in preclinical models and ADPKD patients. This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.