Dictionary > Phagocyte


noun, plural: phagocytes
Any of the cells specialized in engulfing and destroying foreign particles, as well as in removing waste particles and cell debris
Phagocytes pertain to a group of cells capable of rendering protection against bacteria and other foreign particles inside the body. Through the process of phagocytosis, they are able to destroy microorganisms by engulfing them and encasing them into a vesicle (phagosome), which pinches off from the cell membrane, and then fuses with the lysosomes. When this happens, the foreign particles inside the vesicle are broken down and digested. Apart from microorganisms, the phagocytes ingest cell debris and certain waste particles. Thus, in humans and other vertebrates, they are crucial in keeping the body healthy by destroying pathogens and in removing dead (or apoptotic) cells.
Phagocytes include white blood cells of the immune system, such as monocytes, macrophages, neutrophils, and mast cells. Dendritic cells (i.e. antigen-presenting cells) are also capable of phagocytosis. In fact, they are called professional phagocytes because they are effective at it.1
Word origin: German phagocyten (coined by Dr. Elias Metchnikoff in 1884), from Greek phago- (devouring) + –cyte (from Latin –cyta, from Greek kutosmeaning container, body, hollow vessel)
See also:

  • carrier cell
  • compound granule cell
  • gitter cell
  • macrophage
  • marchands wandering cell
  • neuronophage
  • opsonin
  • phagocytoblast
  • phagolysis
  • system of macrophages

Related term(s):

  • mononuclear phagocyte
  • phagocyte bactericidal dysfunction
  • phagocyte dysfunction
  • phagocytosis
  • phagocytic
  • Reference(s):

    1Savina A, Amigorena S. Phagocytosis and antigen presentation in dendritic cells. Immunol Rev. 2007 Oct;219:143-56.

    You will also like...

    Population Growth and Survivorship
    Population Growth and Survivorship

    This lesson looks at population attributes, regulation, and growth. It also covers population genetics, particularly gen..

    Adaptation Tutorial
    Adaptation Tutorial

    Adaptation, in biology and ecology, refers to the process or trait through which organisms or the populations in a habit..


    Bryophytes (nonvascular plants) are a plant group characterized by lacking vascular tissues. They include the mosses, th..

    Flowers and tiny fruits of the pomegranate plant
    Fruits, Flowers, and Seeds

    This tutorial deals with the structure and function of flowers, fruits, and seeds. Also included here are the types of f..

    Pollution in Freshwater Ecosystems
    Pollution in Freshwater Ecosystems

    There are many environmental factors that arise due to the usage of water in one way or another and for every action tha..

    Population Regulation in an Ecosystem
    Population Regulation in an Ecosystem

    With regard to the population size of a species and what factors may affect them, two factors have been defined. They ar..