Diffusion Barriers, Mechanical Forces, and the Biophysics of Phagocytosis

Dev Cell. 2016 Jul 25;38(2):135-46. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2016.06.023.


Phagocytes recognize and eliminate pathogens, alert other tissues of impending threats, and provide a link between innate and adaptive immunity. They also maintain tissue homeostasis, consuming dead cells without causing alarm. The receptor engagement, signal transduction, and cytoskeletal rearrangements underlying phagocytosis are paradigmatic of other immune responses and bear similarities to macropinocytosis and cell migration. We discuss how the glycocalyx restricts access to phagocytic receptors, the processes that enable receptor engagement and clustering, and the remodeling of the actin cytoskeleton that controls the mobility of membrane proteins and lipids and provides the mechanical force propelling the phagocyte membrane toward and around the phagocytic prey.

Keywords: Arp2/3; CD44; CD45; Muc-1; dendritic cells; formin; macrophages.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biophysics
  • Cell Movement
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Phagocytes / cytology
  • Phagocytes / physiology*
  • Phagocytosis / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction