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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2011;713:97-111. doi: 10.1007/978-94-007-0763-4_7.

Macrophage fusion and multinucleated giant cells of inflammation.

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Department of Pathology, Wolstein Research Building, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA.


Macrophages undergo fusion with other macrophages to form the hallmark multinucleated giant cells of chronic inflammation. However, neither the existence of distinct morphological types of giant cells, the signaling pathways that induce their formation, the molecular mechanism(s) of macrophage fusion, nor the significance of macrophage multinucleation at chronic inflammatory sites are well understood. Our efforts have been focused on these unknowns, particularly as they relate to the foreign body-type giant cells that form on implanted biomaterials and biomedical devices. We have pursued the discoveries of human macrophage fusion factors (interleukin-4, interleukin-13, α-tocopherol) with emphasis on foreign body giant cells, and identified adhesion receptors and signaling intermediates, as well as an adhesion protein substrate (vitronectin) that supports macrophage fusion. Studies on the molecular mechanism of macrophage fusion have revealed it to be a mannose receptor-mediated phagocytic process with participation of the endoplasmic reticulum. Further phenotypic and functional investigations will foster new perspectives on these remarkable multinucleated cells and their physiological significances in multiple inflammatory processes.

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