Phagocytosis and Immunity

  • Steven Greenberg
Part of the Medical Intelligence Unit book series (MIUN)


Phagocytosis is an phylogenetically conserved mechanism utilized by many cells to ingest microbial pathogens and apoptotic or necrotic corpses. Recent studies have demonstrated that phagocytosis serves to initiate immunity mediated by both Class I and Class II MHC. Depending on the identity of the specific phagocytic receptor involved, phagocytosis can either enhance or suppress inflammation. Dysregulation of phagocytosis can lead to alterations in the immune response and may contribute to autoimmunity. Harnessing the phagocytic capacity of antigen presenting cells may ultimately lead to exploitation of phagocytosis as a therapeutic modality in intractable diseases, such as advanced cancer.

Phagocytosis is the process by which leukocytes and other cells ingest particulate ligands whose size exceeds about 1 µm. This phylogenetically ancient cellular event is critical for both innate and acquired immunity. By ingesting microbial pathogens, phagocytic leukocytes accomplish two essential immune functions. First, they initiate a microbial death pathway. They target ingested pathogens to degradative organelles, such as lysosomes and to vesicles containing components of the phagocyte oxidase complex. Second, phagocytic leukocytes, particularly dendritic cells (DCs), utilize phagocytosis to direct antigens to both MHC I and II compartments. Thus, phagocytosis serves a dual role as an effector of innate immunity and an initiator of acquired immunity.


Apoptotic Cell Focal Adhesion Kinase Phagosomal Membrane Phagocytic Receptor Haemophilus Ducreyi 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© and Springer Science+Business Media 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Greenberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medicine and PharmacologyColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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