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After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Understand the significance of immunity, particularly with respect to defending the body against microbial invaders.

  • Define the circulating and tissue cell types that contribute to immune and inflammatory responses.

  • Describe how phagocytes are able to kill internalized bacteria.

  • Identify the functions of hematopoietic growth factors, cytokines, and chemokines.

  • Delineate the roles and mechanisms of innate, acquired, humoral, and cellular immunity.

  • Understand the basis of inflammatory responses and wound healing.


As an open system, the body is continuously called upon to defend itself from potentially harmful invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and other microbes. This is accomplished by the immune system, which is subdivided into innate and adaptive (or acquired) branches. The immune system is composed of specialized effector cells that sense and respond to foreign antigens and other molecular patterns not found in human tissues. Likewise, the immune system clears the body’s own cells that have become senescent or abnormal, such as cancer cells. Finally, normal host tissues occasionally become the subject of inappropriate immune attack, such as in autoimmune diseases or in settings where normal cells are harmed as innocent bystanders when the immune system mounts an inflammatory response to an invader. It is beyond the scope of this volume to provide a full treatment of all aspects of modern immunology. Nevertheless, the student of physiology should have a working knowledge of immune functions and their regulation, due to a growing appreciation for the ways in which the immune system can contribute to normal physiologic regulation in a variety of tissues, as well as contributions of immune effectors to pathophysiology.


Many immune effector cells circulate in the blood as the white blood cells. In addition, the blood is the conduit for the precursor cells that eventually develop into the immune cells of the tissues. The circulating immunologic cells include granulocytes (polymorphonuclear leukocytes, PMNs), comprising neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils; lymphocytes; and monocytes. Immune responses in the tissues are further amplified by these cells following their extravascular migration, as well as tissue macrophages (derived from monocytes) and mast cells (related to basophils). Acting together, these cells provide the body with powerful defenses against tumors and viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections.


All granulocytes have cytoplasmic granules that contain biologically active substances involved in inflammatory and allergic reactions.

The average half-life of a neutrophil in the circulation is 6 h. To maintain the normal circulating blood level, it is therefore necessary to produce over 100 billion neutrophils per day. Many neutrophils enter the tissues, particularly if triggered to do so by an infection or by inflammatory cytokines. They are attracted to the endothelial surface by cell adhesion molecules known as selectins, and they roll along it. They then bind firmly ...

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