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J Clin Invest. 1974 Jan;53(1):131-42.

Phagocytic and bacterial properties of normal human monocytes.


The bactericidal and phagocytic capacities of monocytes for E. coli, Staphylococcus, Salmonella, and Listeria, and factors that influence these functions were evaluated and compared with those of the polymorphonuclear leukocytes of 30 normal human subjects. Monocytes killed a significantly smaller proportion of each of the bacterial species than did neutrophils from the same individuals. Whereas the neutrophils of all individuals demonstrated the ability to kill significant numbers of the four bacterial species, there was a marked variation in the effect of monocytes of different individuals on the growth curves of these same bacteria. When the bactericidal capacity of an individual's monocytes to more than one species of bacteria was examined in the same experiment, a significant difference in the effect of monocytes on the growth curve of one bacterial species as opposed to another was noted in 4 of 17 subjects. The bactericidal ability of monocytes of single individuals was consistent on different days in 9 of the 11 subjects whose monocytes were examined more than once against the same bacteria. Studies were performed to determine if the lesser bactericidal capability of monocytes was due to a difference in the ability of monocytes and neutrophils to phagocytize or to a difference in the ability of these cells to kill ingested bacteria or both. The results demonstrated that monocytes phagocytize bacteria significantly less well than neutrophils, but the intracellular killing capacity of both cell types is equal. Addition of phenylbutazone to cell suspensions completely inhibited intracellular killing by both monocytes and neutrophils, suggesting the possibility that the bactericidal mechanisms in both cell types might be similar. Monocyte killing of E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, but not of Staphylococcus, was significantly diminished in heat-inactivated autologous serum. Neither increasing the concentration of autologous serum from 10% to 25% nor replacement of autologous serum with pooled human serum had any effect on monocyte killing of any of the four bacteria. These studies demonstrate that peripheral blood monocytes are less bactericidal for the four bacterial species than neutrophils, solely because monocytes are less phagocytic. A baseline for further study of factors that influence monocyte function and for study of this cell in selected patient populations is provided.

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