The Journal of Membrane Biology

, Volume 193, Issue 3, pp 137–152

Phagosome Maturation: A Few Bugs in the System



Cells of the innate immune system ingest and destroy invading microorganisms by initially engulfing them into a specialized vacuole, known as the phagosome. The membrane of the forming phagosome is similar to the plasmalemma and its contents resemble the extracellular milieu. As such, the nascent phagosome is not competent to kill and eliminate the ingested microorganisms. However, shortly after sealing, the phagosome undergoes a series of rapid and extensive changes in its composition, the result of a sophisticated sequence of membrane fusion and fission reactions. Understanding the molecular basis of these events is of particular importance, since they are often the target of disruption by intracellular parasites such as Mycobacterium, Salmonella and Legionella. The objective of this review is to summarize the current knowledge of the molecular mechanisms underlying phagosomal maturation and its subversion by parasitic microorganisms.


Phagosome Macrophage Rab SNARE Phosphoinositides Salmonella Mycobacterium 


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© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programme in Cell Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children and Department of BiochemistryUniversity of Toronto, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, OntarioCanada

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