AskDefine | Define phagocyte

Dictionary Definition

phagocyte n : a cell that engulfs and digests debris and invading microorganisms [syn: scavenger cell]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A cell in the bloodstream, such as a white blood cell, that engulfs and destroys waste material, harmful microorganisms, or other foreign bodies.


Extensive Definition

A phagocyte is a biological cell that ingests and destroys foreign matter such as microorganisms and debris by a process called phagocytosis. The term means "cell eater" in Greek.


There are three main categories of phagocytes:


Phagocytes eat pathogens and are extremely useful as an initial immune system response to infection. They contain many lysosomes that enable them to digest foreign material. They engulf pathogens, debris, dead or dying cells and extracellular matrix. After engulfment into a phagosome, a lysosome which is filled with digestive enzymes (proteases and oxygen radicals) fuses with it to form the phagolysosome in which the phagocytosed material is digested.
If the skin is broken, the first type of phagocyte that migrate to sites of injury are neutrophils. They fight bacteria by releasing cytotoxic granules and by phagocytosis. Phagocytosis is an active process in wound healing.
In pathogen phagocytosis, specialised antigen-presenting cells (B cells, dendritic cells and macrophages) present on their surfaces small peptides that resulted from the digestion, bound to MHC class II molecules. Helper T cells (CD4+) later recognize these antigens complemented with a second signal, and supplement the cell-mediated immune response.
Phagocytes can also induce apoptosis of normal and tumor cells, produce cationic proteins, complement components and clotting factors, arachidonic acid metabolites, prostaglandins, leukotrienes, thromboxanes, cytokines, proteases and hydrolases, reactive oxygen and nitrogen intermediates.

Resistance by pathogen

Many pathogens can delay or prevent the creation of the phagolysosome such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Salmonella typhi and Legionella. Others, such as the parasites of the genus Leishmania, able to resist or circumvent being digested in the phagolysosome.
One function of T-helper cells is to activate phagocytes to digest intracellular pathogens.


The word phagocyte means "cell that eats", and originates from the Greek words phagein, meaning 'eat', and kytos, meaning 'hollow'.


External links

phagocyte in Arabic: الخلايا البلعمية
phagocyte in German: Phagozyt
phagocyte in Spanish: Fagocito
phagocyte in French: Phagocyte
phagocyte in Italian: Fagocita
phagocyte in Hebrew: פגוציט
phagocyte in Polish: Fagocyt
phagocyte in Portuguese: Fagócito
phagocyte in Russian: Фагоцит
phagocyte in Slovenian: Fagocit
phagocyte in Finnish: Fagosyytti
phagocyte in Swedish: Fagocyt
phagocyte in Chinese: 吞噬細胞
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1