Send to

Choose Destination

Relationship between ultrastructure and specific functions of macrophages.


The main function of the macrophages, which is to ingest and degrade any foreign molecules or particles penetrating the organism, appears in the development of the different structures implicated in endocytic activity. The macrophage's high endocytic property first appears in its irregular shape and the large number of extensions of the cell membrane, allowing the rapid capture of extra-cellular material. Adhesion between macrophage cell surface and molecules or particles is greatly enhanced by the presence of varied kinds of receptors: lectin-like receptors which bind specific sugars or highly specific receptors such as Fc and C3b receptors, which increase phagocytosis of opsonized microbes. The microbicidal properties reside in part in the production of superoxide anions which result from the activity of a NAD(P)H oxidase. This enzyme is located in the plasma membrane. Its activity could be demonstrated with a cytochemical method, on the cell surface and along the phagosome membrane. It is, however, very weak in resident macrophages and increases after stimulation or activation. The second kind of bactericidal property corresponds to cationic proteins located in lysosomes. After fusion between lysosomes and phagosomes, they contribute to microbe killing by permeabilizing microbe envelopes. Lysosomes, which contain diverse acid hydrolases and are responsible for the degradation of ingested material, play a crucial role in macrophage endocytic activity. Their number increases in parallel with endocytic activity during macrophage differentiation and is particularly high after ingestion of degradable material. Contrary to polymorphonuclear leukocytes, macrophage is very poor in granules containing peroxidase. The latter, which are rather abundant in monocytes, disappear during macrophage maturation. They do not seem thus to be implicated in macrophage microbicidal activity. Endocytosis is accompanied by rapid and intense exchanges between the different membrane compartments of the cell (plasma membrane, pinosomes or phagosomes, endosomes, lysosomes, Golgi apparatus, etc.). These exchanges seem to occur by transitory fusions between vesicles coming from different compartments, rapidly followed by their recycling to their original compartment. This system of membrane shuttle has been clearly observed after formation of phagosomes or pinosomes in which the internalized plasma membrane is recycled back to the cell surface within a few minutes after their formation. This membrane traffic is especially intense in macrophages, the endocytic activity of which is very high, but it also exists in all cell types.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center