Phagosome acidification blocked by intracellular Toxoplasma gondii

Nature. 1985 May 30-Jun 5;315(6018):416-9. doi: 10.1038/315416a0.


Toxoplasma gondii belongs to a group of highly virulent intracellular parasites that reside in host cell vacuoles which resist typical phagosome-lysosome fusion. Live Toxoplasma replicate prodigiously within modified phagocytic vacuoles formed during invagination of the host plasma membrane. In contrast, heat-killed Toxoplasma or specific antibody (heat-inactivated)-coated live Toxoplasma-containing vacuoles readily undergo lysosome fusion and digestion in normal macrophages. Of newly recognized significance to Toxoplasma survival is the microbicidal effect of phagosome acidification, which reportedly can occur independently of fusion with other acidic vesicles. We report here that modified live Toxoplasma-containing vacuoles fail to acidify in normal macrophages, as indicated by the sensitive pH probe fluorescein. In contrast, when live Toxoplasma are coated with specific antibody (heat-inactivated), they trigger phagosome acidification when entering normal macrophages. A similar acidification is observed when normal phagocytes ingest dead Toxoplasma. Extracellular Toxoplasma are highly susceptible to acidic pH conditions, indicating that the acidification block in the modified vacuoles may be important for intracellular survival.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / physiology
  • Endosomes / physiology*
  • Fluorescein
  • Fluoresceins
  • Hot Temperature
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Membrane Fusion
  • Mice
  • Phagocytosis*
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Toxoplasma / growth & development
  • Toxoplasma / immunology
  • Toxoplasma / physiology*


  • Antibodies
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescein