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cytologydendritic cell, history of medicine, immune system, macrophage, phagocyte, Zanvil Cohn


Zanvil Alexander Cohn, an editor of this Journal since 1973, died suddenly on June 28, 1993. Cohn is best known as the father of the current era of macrophage biology. Many of his scientific accomplishments are recounted here, beginning with seminal studies on the granules of phagocytes that were performed with his close colleague and former editor of thisJournaI, James Hirsch. Cohn and Hirsch identified the granules as lysosomes that discharged their contents of digestive enzymes into vacuoles containing phagocytosed microbes. These findings were part of the formative era of cell biology and initiated the modern study of endocytosis and cell-mediated resistance to infection. Cohn further explored the endocytic apparatus in pioneering studies of the mouse peritoneal macrophage in culture. He described vesicular inputs from the cell surface and Golgi apparatus and documented the thoroughness of substrate digestion within lysosomal vacuoles that would only permit the egress of monosaccharides and amino acids. These discoveries created a vigorous environment for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior and visiting faculty. Some of the major findings that emerged from Cohn’s collaborations included the radioiodination of the plasma membrane for studies of composition and turnover; membrane recycling during endocytosis; the origin of the mononuclear phagocyte system in situ; the discovery of the dendritic cell system of antigen-presenting cells; the macrophage as a secretory cell, including the release of proteases and large amounts of prostaglandins and leukotrienes; several defined parameters of macrophage activation, especially the ability of T cell-derived lymphokines to enhance killing of tumor cells and intracellular protozoa; the granule discharge mechanism whereby cytotoxic lymphocytes release the pore-forming protein perforin; the signaling of macrophages via myristoylated substrates of protein kinase C; and a tissue culture model in which monocytes emigrate across tight endothelial junctions. In 1983, Cohn turned to a long-standing goal of exploring host resistance directly in humans. He studied leprosy, focusing on the disease site, the parasitized macrophages of the skin. He injected recombinant lymphokines into the skin and found that these molecules elicited several cell-mediated responses. Seeing this potential to enhance host defense in patients, Cohn was extending his clinical studies to AIDS and tuberculosis. Zanvil Cohn was a consummate physician-scientist who nurtured the relationship between cell biology and infectious disease. He guided with a warm but incisive manner the careers of many individuals. He was deeply committed to several institutions of biomedical research; to medicine in the developing world; to The Rockefeller University, especially its programs for graduate study and patient-oriented research; and to the energy and spirit of this Journal.


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