Phagocytosis: Techniques


Phagocytosis is a complex cellular process in which particulate material is engulfed and eliminated. Cells involved in this process are called phagocytes, and their phagocytic abilities are essential to both innate and adaptive immunity. Many techniques have been developed to quantify phagocytic process and the subsequent microbicidal processes.

Key Concepts

  • Phagocytic process.
  • Methods for quantification of phagocytosis.
  • Bactericidal mechanisms.
  • Methods for quantification of bactericidal mechanisms.

Keywords: phagocytosis; antigen uptake; respiratory burst; bacterial killing; hydrogen peroxide; lysosomal fusion

Figure 1. Summary of opsonophagocytosis quantification methods. Opsonophagocytosis is the most specific method for quantifying engulfment because it is dependent on opsonisation (i.e. IgG or complement) and the subsequent internalisation by a corresponding receptor. Most of the techniques also allow for quenching of noninternalised particles (i.e. RBC lysis solution, trypan blue quenching fluorescein and antibiotics inhibiting bacterial proliferation), thereby providing less confounded results.
Figure 2. Quantification of bactericidal mechanisms. Efficacy of phagolysosomal microbial killing can be determined by a variety of techniques targeting key mechanisms such as NADPH oxidase and oxidative burst, H2O2 production as well as phagolysosomal fusion.


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Further Reading

Coligan JE , Kruisbeek AM , Margulies DH , Shevach EM and Strober W (eds) (1992) Current Protocols in Immunology. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

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Stuart LM and Ezekowitz RA (2005) Phagocytosis: elegant complexity. Immunity 22 (5): 539–550.

Yeo JC , Wall AA , Stow JL and Hamilton NA (2013) High‐throughput quantification of early stages of phagocytosis. Biotechniques 55 (3): 115–124.

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Ninkovic, Jana, and Roy, Sabita(Mar 2018) Phagocytosis: Techniques. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0001443.pub2]