We compared phagocytic and metabolic activities of multinucleated giant cells (MGC) and macrophages derived from human monocytes after 9-14 d in culture. Phagocytosis of sheep erythrocytes (E) coated with IgG, of E coated with IgM and complement, and of Candida albicans was comparable in MGC and macrophages. The same percentage of ingested fungi was killed by MGC (24 +/- 4%) and macrophages (21 +/- 5%). Approximately 70% of MGC and macrophages exhibited superoxide-dependent reduction of nitroblue tetrazolium during stimulation. Ia antigen was present on approximately 75% of both cell types. Analysis of cell populations separated by nuclear fluorescence indicated that beta-glucosaminidase, acid phosphatase, and beta-glucuronidase activity per cell was higher in MGC, but specific activity of these enzymes was greater in macrophages. These results suggest that MGC have the capacity to function like macrophages in host defense against infection.

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