Eosinophils have historically been considered to be destructive end-stage effector cells that have a role in parasitic infections and allergic reactions by the release of their granule-derived cytotoxic proteins. However, an increasing number of experimental observations indicate that eosinophils also are multifunctional leukocytes involved in diverse inflammatory and physiologic immune responses. Under homeostatic conditions, eosinophils are particularly abundant in the lamina propria of the gastrointestinal tract, where their involvement in various biological processes within the gastrointestinal tract has been posited. In this review, we summarize the molecular steps involved in eosinophil development and describe eosinophil trafficking to the gastrointestinal tract. We synthesize the current findings on the phenotypic and functional properties of gastrointestinal eosinophils and the accumulating evidence that they have a contributory role in gastrointestinal disorders, with a focus on primary eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders. Finally, we discuss the potential role of eosinophils as modulators of the intestinal immune system.
Copyright © 2014 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.