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Volume 11 (2011), Pages 2364-2381
Review Article

Biochemistry of the Phagosome: The Challenge to Study a Transient Organelle

1Département de Biologie, Université Paris-Sud, Bâtiment 443, rue des Adeles, 91405 Orsay, France
2INSERM, U757, Phagocyte Signal Transduction Group, 91405 Orsay, France

Received 16 September 2011; Accepted 26 October 2011

Academic Editor: Marco Antonio Cassatella

Copyright © 2011 Oliver Nüsse. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Phagocytes are specialized cells of the immune system, designed to engulf and destroy harmful microorganisms inside the newly formed phagosome. The latter is an intracellular organelle that is transformed into a toxic environment within minutes and disappears once the pathogen is destroyed. Reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species are produced inside the phagosome. Intracellular granules or lysosomes of the phagocyte fuse with the phagosome and liberate their destructive enzymes. This process of phagocytosis efficiently protects against most infections; however, some microorganisms avoid their destruction and cause severe damage. To understand such failure of phagosomal killing, we need to learn more about the actual destruction process in the phagosome. This paper summarizes methods to investigate the biochemistry of the phagosome and discusses some of their limitations. In accordance with the nature of the phagosome, the issue of localization and temporal dynamics is emphasized, and recent developments are highlighted.