Phagocyte Development


Mature circulating white blood cells can be divided into two lineages: lymphoid and myeloid. The lymphoid lineage consists of T, B, NK and innate lymphoid cells, while the myeloid lineage includes functionally and morphologically distinct cell types including mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages), granulocytes (neutrophils, basophils, mast cells and eosinophils) and platelets. Granulocytes and mononuclear phagocytes are key players at all stages of the immune response from its genesis to its resolution, and come under the banner of phagocytes. Damaged or infected tissue releases chemoattractants that rapidly recruit these phagocytes to the site of injury. Once at the inflamed site, these cells coordinate and carry out immune functions, playing a key role in host defence. The recent past has seen major progress in our understanding of phagocyte developmental biology. Here, we discuss the latest advances in myeloid development, underpinning our current understanding of how these cells are generated and maintained.

Key Concepts

  • The myeloid lineage includes functionally and morphologically distinct cell types including mononuclear phagocytes (monocytes, dendritic cells and macrophages) and granulocytes (neutrophils, basophils, mast cells and eosinophils).
  • The majority of tissue resident macrophages are generated before birth and are long‐lived self‐maintained cells throughout adulthood.
  • Dendritic cells prime naïve T cells and are derived from a common precursor in the bone marrow that gives rise exclusively to this family of cells.
  • Monocytes are the principal circulating mononuclear phagocyte. Monocytes develop in the bone marrow from a common monocyte progenitor, once in the circulation classical monocytes have the potential to convert into nonclassical monocytes. Classical monocytes are known to repopulate resident mononuclear phagocyte populations and have potent effector functions during immunity.
  • Granulocyte subsets have a complex morphology with a segmented nucleus and each subset contains granules endowing them with a specific role in host defence.
  • Transcription and growth factors control and dictate the development of phagocytes.

Keywords: macrophages; monocytes; dendritic cells; neutrophils; haematopoiesis

Figure 1. Resident mononuclear phagocyte development. The origins of macrophages arise from three sources: the yolk sac, the foetal liver and the bone marrow. Microglia arise only from the yolk sac, whereas Langerhans cells have a mixed origin from both the yolk sac and foetal liver. Adult macrophages of the lung are foetal liver derived. The mononuclear phagocytes of the gut are bone marrow derived.
Figure 2. Bone marrow‐derived mononuclear phagocytes. Adult mononuclear phagocytes develop in the bone marrow. The macrophage and dendritic cell progenitor (MDP) gives rise exclusively to monocytes and DC, the common dendritic cell progenitor (CDP) downstream then gives rise to pDC and cDC but not monocytes. On the other branch, the MDP gives rise to the common monocyte progenitor (cMoP), which in turn generates monocytes.
Figure 3. Granulocyte development. The granulocyte and macrophage progenitor (GMP) has the potential to differentiate into eosinophil‐lineage progenitor (EoP), a common basophil/mast cell progenitor (BMCP), the neutrophil precursor the myeloblast or the MDP.


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Further Reading

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Ginhoux F and Guilliams M (2016) Tissue‐resident macrophage ontogeny and homeostasis. Immunity 44: 439–449.

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Ziegler‐Heitbrock L, Ancuta P, Crowe S, et al. (2010) Nomenclature of monocytes and dendritic cells in blood. Blood 116: e74–e80.

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Patel, Amit A, and Yona, Simon(Feb 2018) Phagocyte Development. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001218.pub2]