The NADPH Oxidase and the Phagosome

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020:1246:153-177. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-40406-2_9.


The key purpose of phagocytosis is the destruction of pathogenic microorganisms. The phagocytes exert a wide array of killing mechanisms that allow mastering the vast majority of pathogens. One of these mechanisms consists in the production of reactive oxygen species inside the phagosome by a specific enzyme, the phagocyte NADPH oxidase. This enzyme is composed of 6 proteins that need to assemble to form a complex on the phagosomal membrane. Multiple signaling pathways tightly regulate the assembly. We briefly summarize key features of the enzyme and its regulation. We then focus on several related topics that address the activity of the NADPH oxidase during phagocytosis. Novel fluorescence microscopy techniques combined with fluorescent protein labeling of NADPH oxidase subunits opened the view on the structure and dynamics of these proteins in living cells. This combination revealed details of the role of anionic phospholipids in the control of phagosomal ROS production. It also added critical information to propose a 3D model of the complex between the cytosolic subunits prior to activation, in complement to other structural data on the oxidase.

Keywords: Fluorescence microscopy; NADPH oxidase; Neutrophil; Phagocytosis; Phospholipid dynamics; ROS.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • NADPH Oxidases / metabolism*
  • Phagocytes / cytology
  • Phagocytes / enzymology
  • Phagocytes / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis
  • Phagosomes / enzymology*
  • Phagosomes / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • NADPH Oxidases