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J Leukoc Biol. 2011 Dec;90(6):1065-78. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0311114. Epub 2011 Aug 30.

Macrophage phagocytosis: effects of environmental pollutants, alcohol, cigarette smoke, and other external factors.

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Program of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois, USA.


The ability of a pathogen to evade host immunity successfully, in contrast to the host's capacity to defend itself against a foreign invader, is a complex struggle, in which eradication of infection is dictated by a robust immunologic response. Often, there are external factors that can alter the outcome by tipping the scale to benefit pathogen establishment rather than resolution by the host's defense system. These external sources, such a cigarettes, alcohol, or environmental pollutants, can negatively influence the effectiveness of the immune system's response to a pathogen. The observed suppression of immune function can be attributed to dysregulated cytokine and chemokine production, the loss of migratory potential, or the inability to phagocytose pathogens by immune cells. This review will focus on the mechanisms involved during the toxin-induced suppression of phagocytosis. The accumulated data support the importance of studying the mechanisms of phagocytosis following exposure to these factors, in that this effect alone cannot only leave the host susceptible to infection but also promote alterations in many other macrophage functions necessary for pathogen clearance and restoration of homeostasis.

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