Liposome mediated depletion of macrophages: mechanism of action, preparation of liposomes and applications

J Immunol Methods. 1994 Sep 14;174(1-2):83-93. doi: 10.1016/0022-1759(94)90012-4.


Selective depletion of macrophages from tissues in vivo can be used to investigate whether these cells are playing a role in defined biological processes. This question is particularly relevant to various host defense mechanisms. We have developed a macrophage 'suicide' technique, using the liposome mediated intracellular delivery of dichloromethylene-bisphosphonate (Cl2MBP or clodronate). The method is specific with respect to phagocytic cells of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS) for the following reasons: (1) The natural fate of liposomes is phagocytosis. (2) Once ingested by macrophages, the phospholipid bilayers of the liposomes are disrupted under the influence of lysosomal phospholipases. (3) Cl2MBP intracellularly released in this way does not easily escape from the cell by crossing the cell membranes. (4) Cl2MBP released in the circulation from dead macrophages or by leakage from liposomes, will not easily enter non-phagocytic cells and has an extremely short half life in the circulation and body fluids. In the present review, the preparation of Cl2MBP-liposomes has been described in detail. Furthermore, the mechanism of action of the new approach and its applicabilities are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clodronic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Immunity, Cellular
  • Liposomes
  • Lymphoid Tissue / cytology
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Phagocytosis
  • Rats


  • Liposomes
  • Clodronic Acid