Horse eosinophil function has been studied in vitro by means of phase contrast cinemicrophotography.
Locomotion of horse eosinophils was inhibited by serum factors reacting with glass surfaces. Under appropriate conditions which eliminated this inhibitory effect, eosinophils moved about and ingested some particles as rapidly as did neutrophils.
Eosinophils were attracted to and readily engulfed such diverse materials as yeast cell walls, foreign erythrocytes, and antigen-antibody precipitates. Specific antibody was required for phagocytosis of red cells, and greatly accelerated the uptake of yeast cell walls.
Horse eosinophil granules situated adjacent to material being engulfed disrupted with discharge of granule contents into or alongside the phagocytic vacuole. Granule disruption resulted in a clear zone and deposition of amorphous, phase-dense material.
A heat-labile serum factor was required for degranulation of eosinophils ingesting foreign red cells, but not for degranulation during engulfment of yeast cell walls or antigen-antibody precipitates.
Horse eosinophils were incapable under these conditions of engulfing an entire human red cell. The eosinophil commonly put out a large pseudopod to surround about half the red cell, and then appeared to constrict this pseudopod distally to cut the erythrocyte in half.
It is concluded that eosinophils are phagocytic cells, resembling neutrophils in many of their properties. Any specific functions of eosinophils, distinguishing them from other phagocytes, remain to be discovered.