Eosinophils: multifaceted biological properties and roles in health and disease

Immunol Rev. 2011 Jul;242(1):161-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2011.01026.x.


Eosinophils are leukocytes resident in mucosal tissues. During T-helper 2 (Th2)-type inflammation, eosinophils are recruited from bone marrow and blood to the sites of immune response. While eosinophils have been considered end-stage cells involved in host protection against parasite infection and immunopathology in hypersensitivity disease, recent studies changed this perspective. Eosinophils are now considered multifunctional leukocytes involved in tissue homeostasis, modulation of adaptive immune responses, and innate immunity to certain microbes. Eosinophils are capable of producing immunoregulatory cytokines and are actively involved in regulation of Th2-type immune responses. However, such new information does not preclude earlier observations showing that eosinophils, in particular human eosinophils, are also effector cells with proinflammatory and destructive capabilities. Eosinophils with activation phenotypes are observed in biological specimens from patients with disease, and deposition of eosinophil products is readily seen in the affected tissues from these patients. Therefore, it would be reasonable to consider the eosinophil a multifaceted leukocyte that contributes to various physiological and pathological processes depending on their location and activation status. This review summarizes the emerging concept of the multifaceted immunobiology of eosinophils and discusses the roles of eosinophils in health and disease and the challenges and perspectives in the field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / immunology
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / immunology*
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins / immunology*
  • Eosinophils* / immunology
  • Eosinophils* / metabolism
  • Homeostasis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Hypersensitivity / physiopathology
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Signal Transduction / immunology
  • Species Specificity
  • Th2 Cells / immunology*
  • Th2 Cells / metabolism


  • Cytokines
  • Eosinophil Granule Proteins
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins