Irregular particle morphology and membrane rupture facilitate ion gradients in the lumen of phagosomes

Biophys Rep (N Y). 2022 Aug 11;2(3):100069. doi: 10.1016/j.bpr.2022.100069. eCollection 2022 Sep 14.


Localized fluxes, production, and/or degradation coupled to limited diffusion are well known to result in stable spatial concentration gradients of biomolecules in the cell. In this study, we demonstrate that this also holds true for small ions, since we found that the close membrane apposition between the membrane of a phagosome and the surface of the cargo particle it encloses, together with localized membrane rupture, suffice for stable gradients of protons and iron cations within the lumen of the phagosome. Our data show that, in phagosomes containing hexapod-shaped silica colloid particles, the phagosomal membrane is ruptured at the positions of the tips of the rods, but not at other positions. This results in the confined leakage at these positions of protons and iron from the lumen of the phagosome into the cytosol. In contrast, acidification and iron accumulation still occur at the positions of the phagosomes nearer to the cores of the particles. Our study strengthens the concept that coupling metabolic and signaling reaction cascades can be spatially confined by localized limited diffusion.