The Tetrahymena thermophila phagosome proteome

Eukaryot Cell. 2006 Dec;5(12):1990-2000. doi: 10.1128/EC.00195-06. Epub 2006 Sep 29.


In vertebrates, phagocytosis occurs mainly in specialized cells of the immune system and serves as a primary defense against invading pathogens, but it also plays a role in clearing apoptotic cells and in tissue remodeling during development. In contrast, unicellular eukaryotes, such as the ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila, employ phagocytosis to ingest and degrade other microorganisms to meet their nutritional needs. To learn more about the protein components of the multistep process of phagocytosis, we carried out an analysis of the Tetrahymena phagosome proteome. Tetrahymena cells were fed polystyrene beads, which allowed for the efficient purification of phagosomes. The protein composition of purified phagosomes was then analyzed by multidimensional separation coupled with tandem mass spectrometry. A total of 453 peptides were identified that resulted in the identification of 73 putative phagosome proteins. Twenty-eight of the proteins have been implicated in phagocytosis in other organisms, indicating that key aspects of phagocytosis were conserved during evolution. Other identified proteins have not previously been associated with phagocytosis, including some of unknown function. Live-cell confocal fluorescence imaging of Tetrahymena strains expressing green fluorescent protein-tagged versions of four of the identified phagosome proteins provided evidence that at least three of the proteins (including two with unknown functions) are associated with phagosomes, indicating that the bulk of the proteins identified in the analyses are indeed phagosome associated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Phagocytosis* / genetics
  • Phagosomes / genetics
  • Phagosomes / physiology*
  • Proteome
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / genetics
  • Tetrahymena thermophila / physiology*


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Proteome
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins