A lesson from the wild: The natural state of eosinophils is Ly6Ghi

Iris Mair, Andrew Wolfenden, Ann E Lowe, Alex Bennett, Andrew Muir, Hannah Smith, Jonathan Fenn, Janette E Bradley, Kathryn J Else

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With a long history of promoting pathological inflammation, eosinophils are now emerging as important regulatory cells. Yet, findings from controlled laboratory experiments so far lack translation to animals, including humans, in their natural environment. In order to appreciate the breadth of eosinophil phenotype under non-laboratory, uncontrolled conditions, we exploit a free-living population of the model organism Mus musculus domesticus. Eosinophils were present at significantly higher proportions in the spleen and bone marrow of wild mice compared to laboratory mice. Strikingly, the majority of eosinophils of wild mice exhibited a unique Ly6Ghi phenotype seldom described in laboratory literature. Ly6G expression correlated with activation status in spleen and bone marrow, but not peritoneal exudate cells, and is therefore likely not an activation marker per se. Intermediate Ly6G expression was transiently induced in a small proportion of eosinophils from C57BL/6 laboratory mice during acute infection with the whipworm Trichuris muris, but not during low dose chronic infection which better represents parasite exposure in the wild. We conclude that the natural state of the eosinophil is not adequately reflected in the standard laboratory mouse, which compromises our attempts to dissect their functional relevance. Our findings emphasise the importance of studying the immune system in its natural context – alongside more mechanistic laboratory experiments – in order to capture the entirety of immune phenotypes and functions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)766-776
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Early online date6 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2021


  • Ly6G
  • ecoimmunology
  • eosinophils
  • flow cytometry
  • granulocytes
  • phenotype
  • wild mice


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