The gastrointestinal mucosa is the largest reservoir of macrophages in the body. These important effector cells are derived from blood monocytes that are recruited to the lamina propria by endogenous chemoattractants in the non-inflamed mucosa and by inflammatory chemokines and bacterial products during inflammation. In the non-inflamed mucosa, newly recruited pro-inflammatory monocytes are exposed to lamina propria stromal (extracellular matrix) factors that induce phenotypic and functional differentiation into non-inflammatory macrophages. As a consequence of this differentiation, resident lamina propria macrophages are strikingly downregulated for the expression of innate response receptors, such as the receptors for lipopolysaccharide, immunoglobulin G (IgG), and IgA, and the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-1 (IL-1), IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α. Despite downregulated pro-inflammatory function, strong phagocytic and bactericidal activities remain intact. Thus, in the non-inflamed intestinal mucosa, lamina propria macrophages are non-inflammatory but retain avid scavenger and host defense functions, a unique but ideal phenotype and functional profile for effector cells in close proximity to immunostimulatory microorganisms and products. Copyright © Blackwell Munksgaard 2005.