Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 2 days left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

White Blood Cells

There are 5 types of white blood cells present in the human blood which help with the immune defense.
© Universiti Malaya

The white blood cells (WBCs) are also known as leucocytes. WBCs are also mainly produced by adult bone marrow and contain nuclei that help with immune defence. WBCs are divided into two categories; those without granulocytes, also known as agranulocytes: which are the monocytes, T & B Lymphocytes; and those with granulocytes: the neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils.

Categories of leucocytes

Leucocyte production

The production of leucocytes is stimulated by various peptide proteins (known as cytokines) that assists in developing the leucocyte precursors (haematopoietic stem cells) into various matured leucocytes. In particular, the growth factor and interleukins help stimulate development of leucocytes from common myeloid and lymphoid type progenitor cells. Lymphoid progenitor cells are responsible for producing matured B and T-lymphocytes while myeloid progenitor cells produced the other 4 types of leucocytes. The maturation of granulocytic leucocytes (such as neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils) is stimulated by the Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (G-CSF), while the maturation of agranulocyte leucocytes is stimulated by the Monocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (M-CSF).

Major types of WBCs: Neutrophils and Lymphocytes

The most abundant type of WBC is the neutrophil, which makes up 60-70% of the total distribution. It has a lobed nucleus with granules and mainly function as the first line of defense against foreign infection through the process of phagocytosis and digestion of pathogens such as bacteria. Lymphocytes are the second most abundant type of WBC, totaling 20-40% of the distribution. It generally has a spherical dark nucleus with pale cytoplasm and consist of 2 types. The B-lymphocytes produce antibodies against infections, while the T-lymphocytes release chemicals that destroy virus-infected cells.

Minor types of WBCs: Monocytes, Eosinophils and Basophils

Monocytes make up 2-6% of the distribution and help digest bacteria, antigen and old or damaged cells. They can transform into macrophages upon entering tissues, making it more capable of performing phagocytic processes against pathogens. Eosinophils add up another 1-4% of the distribution, functioning as parasite killers or turning off allergic responses. Lastly, basophils are the least abundant, found in about 0-0.5% of WBCs and work to release mediators of inflammation such as histamine.

Five Types of White Blood Cells

Neutrophils

Lobed nucleus with granules

Makes up to 60-70% of total distribution

Is the main and first line of defense against infection

Phagocytise & digest bacteria

Lymphocytes

Spherical dark nucleus with pale cytoplasm

Makes up to 20-40% of total distribution

B-lymphocytes produce antibodies

T-lymphocytes release chemicals to destroy viral infected cells

Monocytes

Dark kidney shape nucleus

Makes up to 2-6% of total distribution

Enter tissues to become macrophages

Mainly digests bacteria, antigen and old or damaged cells

Eosinophils

Bilobed nucleus

Makes up to 1-4% of total distribution

Mainly functions to kill parasites

Turns off allergic responses

Basophils

Bilobed nucleus, Dark granules

Makes up to 0-0.5% of total distribution

Turns on allergic response by releasing histamine or other inflammatory mediators

To learn more, you can watch this video on youtube: White Blood Cells Types and Functions

© Universiti Malaya
This article is from the free online

Human Blood and Blood Functions

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now