Phagocytic 'teeth' and myosin-II 'jaw' power target constriction during phagocytosis

Elife. 2021 Oct 28;10:e68627. doi: 10.7554/eLife.68627.


Phagocytosis requires rapid actin reorganization and spatially controlled force generation to ingest targets ranging from pathogens to apoptotic cells. How actomyosin activity directs membrane extensions to engulf such diverse targets remains unclear. Here, we combine lattice light-sheet microscopy (LLSM) with microparticle traction force microscopy (MP-TFM) to quantify actin dynamics and subcellular forces during macrophage phagocytosis. We show that spatially localized forces leading to target constriction are prominent during phagocytosis of antibody-opsonized targets. This constriction is largely driven by Arp2/3-mediated assembly of discrete actin protrusions containing myosin 1e and 1f ('teeth') that appear to be interconnected in a ring-like organization. Contractile myosin-II activity contributes to late-stage phagocytic force generation and progression, supporting a specific role in phagocytic cup closure. Observations of partial target eating attempts and sudden target release via a popping mechanism suggest that constriction may be critical for resolving complex in vivo target encounters. Overall, our findings present a phagocytic cup shaping mechanism that is distinct from cytoskeletal remodeling in 2D cell motility and may contribute to mechanosensing and phagocytic plasticity.

Keywords: actin; cell biology; cytoskeleton; mouse; myosin; phagocytosis; physics of living systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells
  • Cytoskeleton
  • HL-60 Cells
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Molecular Imaging / methods
  • Myosin Type II / metabolism*
  • Phagocytosis / physiology*
  • RAW 264.7 Cells
  • Stem Cells


  • Actins
  • Myosin Type II

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.16666864
  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.16677373