Polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMN) are the most abundant leukocytes, comprising about two-thirds of peripheral blood leukocytes, and play major roles in innate immunity. In addition, PMN play critical roles in the development of adaptive immunity. Recently, defensins and other peptides pre-stored in PMN granules were shown to attract monocytes, dendritic cells, and T cells, leading to the hypothesis that the release of PMN granular peptides may link innate and adaptive immunity. During the past several years, we have focused on an alternative hypothesis that activated PMN further differentiate and acquire new phenotypes and functions that enable them to link the two responses. To test our hypothesis, we have taken local and global approaches and have shown several key findings that support the hypothesis. The findings include the requirement for priming PMN by cytokines to induce the delayed expression of MCP-1/CCL2, a signal for mononuclear cells, and the expression of new cell-surface markers by such cytokine-activated PMN. In the present manuscript, we focus on the phenotypic and functional changes that occur during PMN activation with selected cytokines. The results of our study indicate that inflammatory PMN are heterogeneous and play roles in not only innate but also adaptive immunity in response to stimuli released in injured tissues.
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