The Genomics and Cell Biology of Host-Beneficial Intracellular Infections

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2021 Oct 6:37:115-142. doi: 10.1146/annurev-cellbio-120219-024122. Epub 2021 Jul 9.


Microbes gain access to eukaryotic cells as food for bacteria-grazing protists, for host protection by microbe-killing immune cells, or for microbial benefit when pathogens enter host cells to replicate. But microbes can also gain access to a host cell and become an important-often required-beneficial partner. The oldest beneficial microbial infections are the ancient eukaryotic organelles now called the mitochondrion and plastid. But numerous other host-beneficial intracellular infections occur throughout eukaryotes. Here I review the genomics and cell biology of these interactions with a focus on intracellular bacteria. The genomes of host-beneficial intracellular bacteria have features that span a previously unfilled gap between pathogens and organelles. Host cell adaptations to allow the intracellular persistence of beneficial bacteria are found along with evidence for the microbial manipulation of host cells, but the cellular mechanisms of beneficial bacterial infections are not well understood.

Keywords: endocytosis; endosymbiosis; exocytosis; intracellular pathogens; organelles; phagocytosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria* / genetics
  • Eukaryota
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Genomics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Organelles*