What Are Agranulocytes? - Definition & Function

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  • 0:03 White Blood Cells
  • 0:53 More About Granulocytes
  • 1:32 Monocytes and Lymphocytes
  • 3:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bridgett Payseur

Bridgett has a PhD in microbiology and immunology and teaches college biology.

Agranulocytes are white blood cells that work together to coordinate the body's defenses against germs. This lesson will further explore agranulocytes and how they protect the body.

White Blood Cells

White blood cells, also known as leukocytes, are part of your body's defense system. They can either act as sentries that patrol the body and look for invaders or target specific germs for destruction. There are several different categories of white blood cells. The first breaking point in categorizing white blood cells is to look at granules. Granules look like little purple dots in the cell under a microscope, and they hold proteins that help the white blood cell do its job - namely killing invading germs.

Some white blood cells have granules. These are appropriately called granulocytes; the name comes from granulo for granule and cyte for cell. Other types of white blood cells don't have granules. These are called agranulocytes, and they're the subject of our lesson.

More About Granulocytes

The granules in granulocytes are little collections of bacteria-fighting proteins that the cell keeps on-hand to attack any invading germs. The most common granulocytes are neutrophils, white blood cells that roam through the body looking for trouble. When a neutrophil encounters a germ, it releases the proteins in its granules to both kill the germ and alert the rest of the immune system that there's been a security breach. Different types of granulocytes alert different systems in the body when they find germs, much like how different emergencies bring in different emergency responders (police, fire department, or ambulance).

Monocytes and Lymphocytes

There are two main types of agranulocytes in humans: monocytes and lymphocytes. Monocytes and lymphocytes work together to help make the adaptive or acquired immune response. Monocytes have a similar job to the neutrophils mentioned earlier - they travel through the blood, gobbling up anything that might be potentially harmful. When monocytes leave the blood to go into the body tissue, they mature and are called macrophages. Moving to the tissue is like graduation for the monocytes - they are promoted from one level to the next.

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