Leukocyte recruitment in inflammation

Recruitment of circulating leukocytes to a site of tissue injury, infection or antigen deposition is essential to the evolution of an inflammatory response. The inflammatory response, characterized by altered vascular permeability, the release of inflammatory mediators, and the mobilization and infiltration of leukocytes, serves to sequester and eliminate pathogens. As the leukocytes phagocytose and degrade the inflammatory agent, they, in turn, release additional inflammatory mediators that orchestrate additional recruitment and activation of leukocytes. If these recruited leukocytes succeed in eliminating the immunologic challenge, the inflammatory response subsides and the tissue repair begins. Failure to eliminate the antigen, however, results in continued recruitment and activation of leukocytes, responsible for the development of chronic inflammatory lesions. These lesions may account for destruction of the host's own tissues.

In order for leukocytes to accumulate in an inflammatory site, circulating leukocytes must: 1) adhere to nearby vascular endothelial cells, and 2) migrate between cells and through the basement membrane toward chemotactic signals in the tissue site where they 3) become immobilized (migration inhibition) and activated to phagocytose, secrete cytokines and/or proliferate as they carry out their inflammatory functions. Thus, recruitment of leukocytes to a specific location is not random, but involves an ordered series of events.

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