The major role of chemokines is to act as a chemoattractant to guide the migration of cells. Cells that are attracted by chemokines follow a signal of increasing chemokine concentration towards the source of the chemokine.
Some chemokines control cells of the immune system during processes of immune surveillance, such as directing lymphocytes to the lymph nodes so they can screen for invasion of pathogens by interacting with antigen-presenting cells residing in these tissues. These are known as homeostatic chemokines and are produced and secreted without any need to stimulate their source cell(s).
Some chemokines have roles in development; they promote angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels), or guide cells to tissues that provide specific signals critical for cellular maturation.
Other chemokines are inflammatory and are released from a wide variety of cells in response to bacterial infection, viruses and agents that cause physical damage such as silica or the urate crystals that occur in gout. Their release is often stimulated by pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin 1.
Inflammatory chemokines function mainly as chemoattractants for leukocytes, recruiting monocytes, neutrophils and other effector cells from the blood to sites of infection or tissue damage.
Certain inflammatory chemokines activate cells to initiate an immune response or promote wound healing. They are released by many different cell types and serve to guide cells of both innate immune system and adaptive immune system.
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