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J Exp Med. 1993 Jun 1; 177(6): 1605–1611.
PMCID: PMC2191039

Histoplasma capsulatum modulates the acidification of phagolysosomes


The phagolysosome is perhaps the most effective antimicrobial site within macrophages due both to its acidity and to its variety of hydrolytic enzymes. Few species of pathogens survive and multiply in these vesicles. However, one strategy for microbial survival would be to induce a higher pH within these organelles, thus interfering with the activity of many lysosomal enzymes. Altering the intravesicular milieu might also profoundly influence antigen processing, antimicrobial drug delivery, and drug activity. Here we report the first example of an organism proliferating within phagolysosomes that maintain a relatively neutral pH for a sustained period of time. We inoculated P388D1 macrophages with fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)- labeled Histoplasma capsulatum or zymosan. Using the ratio of fluorescence excitations at 495 and 450 nm, we determined that vesicles containing either virulent or avirulent FITC-labeled H. capsulatum yeasts had a pH one to two units higher than vesicles containing either zymosan or methanol-killed H. capsulatum. The difference in pH remained stable for at least 5.5 h postinoculation. Longer-term studies using cells preincubated with acridine orange indicated that phagolysosomes containing live Histoplasma continued to maintain a relatively neutral pH for at least 30 h. Many agents raise the pH of multiple vesicles within the same cell. In contrast, H. capsulatum affects only the phagolysosome in which it is located; during coinoculation of cells with unlabeled Histoplasma and labeled zymosan, organelles containing zymosan still acidified normally. Similarly, unlabeled zymosan had no influence on the elevated pH of vesicles housing labeled Histoplasma. Thus, zymosan and Histoplasma were segregated into separate phagolysosomes that responded independently to their phagocytized contents. This localized effect might reflect an intrinsic difference between phagosomes housing the two particle types, active buffering by the microbe, or altered ion transport across the phagolysosomal membrane such that acidification is inhibited.

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Selected References

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