The eosinophil

Annu Rev Immunol. 2006;24:147-74. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.24.021605.090720.


Eosinophils have been considered end-stage cells involved in host protection against parasites. However, numerous lines of evidence have now changed this perspective by showing that eosinophils are pleiotropic multifunctional leukocytes involved in initiation and propagation of diverse inflammatory responses, as well as modulators of innate and adaptive immunity. In this review, we summarize the biology of eosinophils, focusing on the growing properties of eosinophil-derived products, including the constituents of their granules as well as the mechanisms by which they release their pleiotropic mediators. We examine new views on the role of eosinophils in homeostatic function, including developmental biology and innate and adaptive immunity (as well as interaction with mast cells and T cells). The molecular steps involved in eosinophil development and trafficking are described, with special attention to the important role of the transcription factor GATA-1, the eosinophil-selective cytokine IL-5, and the eotaxin subfamily of chemokines. We also review the role of eosinophils in disease processes, including infections, asthma, and gastrointestinal disorders, and new data concerning genetically engineered eosinophil-deficient mice. Finally, strategies for targeted therapeutic intervention in eosinophil-mediated mucosal diseases are conceptualized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins / immunology
  • Eosinophils / cytology
  • Eosinophils / immunology*
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / immunology
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Mucosal
  • Infections / immunology
  • Mast Cells / immunology
  • Mice
  • Models, Immunological
  • Reproduction / immunology


  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins