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Journal of Immunology Research
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 794072, 11 pages
Review Article

Neutrophil Leukocyte: Combustive Microbicidal Action and Chemiluminescence

Department of Pathology, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE 68131, USA

Received 15 August 2015; Accepted 18 November 2015

Academic Editor: Carlos Rosales

Copyright © 2015 Robert C. Allen. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Neutrophil leukocytes protect against a varied and complex array of microbes by providing microbicidal action that is simple, potent, and focused. Neutrophils provide such action via redox reactions that change the frontier orbitals of oxygen (O2) facilitating combustion. The spin conservation rules define the symmetry barrier that prevents direct reaction of diradical O2 with nonradical molecules, explaining why combustion is not spontaneous. In burning, the spin barrier is overcome when energy causes homolytic bond cleavage producing radicals capable of reacting with diradical O2 to yield oxygenated radical products that further participate in reactive propagation. Neutrophil mediated combustion is by a different pathway. Changing the spin quantum state of O2 removes the symmetry restriction to reaction. Electronically excited singlet molecular oxygen () is a potent electrophilic reactant with a finite lifetime that restricts its radius of reactivity and focuses combustive action on the target microbe. The resulting exergonic dioxygenation reactions produce electronically excited carbonyls that relax by light emission, that is, chemiluminescence. This overview of neutrophil combustive microbicidal action takes the perspectives of spin conservation and bosonic-fermionic frontier orbital considerations. The necessary principles of particle physics and quantum mechanics are developed and integrated into a fundamental explanation of neutrophil microbicidal metabolism.