A marked reduction in numbers of cytoplasmic granules in rabbit and human polymorphonuclear leucocytes takes place following ingestion of various microorganisms or of a yeast cell wall preparation. The degranulation occurs within 30 minutes of phagocytosis, and is directly related to the quantity of material engulfed. White cells completely degranulated following phagocytosis of large numbers of microorganisms remain viable for at least 1 hour.
The granules of polymorphonuclear leucocytes contain the antimicrobial agent, phagocytin, and various digestive enzymes. These substances thus are released into the cytoplasm or into vacuoles following ingestion of foreign material. The granule system and granule lysis mechanism may well play a central role in the primary function of these specialized cells; namely, that of destroying invading microorganisms.