The function of phagocytes, particularly polymorphonucleocytes, and macrophages is to ingest, destroy and digest micro-organisms. Firstly bacteria stick to the phagocytes. The phagocytes then surround the bacteria with pseudopods and internalize them by invagination into the cytoplasm membrane. A vesicle containing the bacteria develops within the cell : the phagosome. Bacteria are affected by bactericidal effects when free radicals penetrate the phagosome. Phagocytosis is accompanied by an enormous increase in the phagocyte's oxygen consumption (over 30 times the normal figure) called the oxidative burst. NAPDH production by the hexose monophosphate shunt increases greatly and NADPH oxidase penetrates the phagosome. NADPH oxidase reduces the molecular oxygen into superoxide radical within the phagosome. An SOD turns these superoxide ions into highly bactericidal H2O2, which is detoxified by catalase, myeloperoxidase or glutathione peroxidase. The most important system in polymorphonucleocytes is myeloperoxidase which produces the highly bactericidal hypochlorite (ClO-)36,37. Along with the oxidative burst, phagolysosome fusion takes place and lysosome contents pour into the phagosome. Fusion starts with the primary granules which contain a large quantity of myeloperoxidase. Then secondary granules fuse to complete the digestive stage where bacterial constituents are eliminated by exocytosis, letting the bacterial antigens loose and making them available to the immune competent cells of the immune system (specific immune response)36,37.
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