Examples of cells of themononuclear phagocytic system and theirrespective locations
MonocytesBlood streamAlveolar macrophagesLungsSinus macrophagesLymph nodesand spleenKupffer cellsLiver
Dendritic cells consist of Langerhans’ andinterdigitating cells and form an importantbridge between innate and adaptive immunity,as the cells present the antigenic peptide to theT helper cell (adaptive immunity). Such cells aretherefore known as professional antigenpresenting cells(APCs).Table 3illustrates thevarious types of dendritic cells together with anexample of their location.
Eosinophils (so called because their granulesstain with eosin –Figure 4) are granulocytesthat possess phagocytic properties. Despite thefact that they represent only 2-5 % of the total leukocyte population, they are instrumental inthe fight against parasites that are too big to bephagocytosed.
Phagocytosis - the process
Phagocytosis is the process by which cells engulf microorganisms and particles(Figure 3). Firstly,the phagocyte must move towards the microbeunder the influence of chemotactic signals, e.g.complement (see later). For the process tocontinue, the phagocyte must attach to themicrobe either by recognition of the microbial sugar residues (e.g. mannose) on its surface orcomplement/antibody, which is bound to thepathogen. Following attachment, thephagocyte’s cell surface invaginates and themicrobe becomes internalised into aphagosome. The resultantphagosomefuses withmultiple vesicles containing O
free radicals andother toxic proteins known as lysosomes to forma phagolysosome. The microbe is subsequentlydestroyed.
“to make tasty”
Opsoninsare molecules, which enhance theefficiency of the phagocytic process by coatingthe microbe and effectively marking them fortheir destruction. Important opsonins are thecomplement component C3b and antibodies.
Natural killer (NK) cells
NKcells are also known as “large granularlymphocytes” (LGLs) and are mainly found in thecirculation. They comprise between 5-11% of thetotal lymphocyte fraction. In addition topossessing receptors for immunoglobulin type G(IgG), they contain two unique cell surfacereceptors known as killer activation receptor andkiller inhibition receptor. Activation of theformer initiates cytokine (“communication”)molecules from the cell whilst activation of thelatter inhibits the aforesaid action.NK cells serve an important role in attackingvirally-infected cells in addition to certaintumour cells. Destruction of infected cells isachieved through the release of perforins andgranyzymes from its granules, which induceapoptosis (programmed cell death). NK cells arealso able to secrete interferon-
). Thisinterferon serves two purposes: first, to preventhealthy host cells from becoming infected by avirus; and second, to augment the T cell response to other virally infected cells(see later).
Mast cells and basophils
Morphologically, mast cells and basophils arevery similar in that both contain electron densegranules in the cytoplasm. Basophils areso-called owing to the fact that their granulesstain with a basic dye. Unlike mast cells, whichare present in close proximity to blood vessels inconnective tissue, basophils reside in thecirculation.Both cell types are instrumental in initiatingthe acute inflammatory response. Degranulationis achieved either by binding to components of the complement system or by cross-linking of the IgE antibody which results in the release of pro-inflammatory mediators including histamineand various cytokines. The former inducesvasodilation and augments vascular permeabilitywhilst the latter are important in attractingboth neutrophils and eosinophils.