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Crit Care. 2003 Aug;7(4):291-307. Epub 2003 Jan 9.

Science review: Cell membrane expression (connectivity) regulates neutrophil delivery, function and clearance.

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  • 1Division of Thoracic Surgery, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.


As the principal cellular component of the inflammatory host defense and contributor to host injury after severe physiologic insult, the neutrophil is inherently coupled to patient outcome in both health and disease. Extensive research has focused on the mechanisms that regulate neutrophil delivery, function, and clearance from the inflammatory microenvironment. The neutrophil cell membrane mediates the interaction of the neutrophil with the extracellular environment; it expresses a complex array of adhesion molecules and receptors for various ligands, including mediators, cytokines, immunoglobulins, and membrane molecules on other cells. This article presents a review and analysis of the evidence that the neutrophil membrane plays a central role in regulating neutrophil delivery (production, rolling, adhesion, diapedesis, and chemotaxis), function (priming and activation, microbicidal activity, and neutrophil-mediated host injury), and clearance (apoptosis and necrosis). In addition, we review how change in neutrophil membrane expression is synonymous with change in neutrophil function in vivo. Employing a complementary analysis of the neutrophil as a complex system, neutrophil membrane expression may be regarded as a measure of neutrophil connectivity, with altered patterns of connectivity representing functionally distinct neutrophil states. Thus, not only does the neutrophil membrane mediate the processes that characterize the neutrophil lifecycle, but characterization of neutrophil membrane expression represents a technology with which to evaluate neutrophil function.

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