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Eur J Cell Biol. 2002 Jan;81(1):17-25.

Pathogenic Mycobacterium avium remodels the phagosome membrane in macrophages within days after infection.

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  • 1Inserm U411, UFR de M├ędecine Necker, Paris, France.


As part of their strategy for intracellular survival, mycobacteria prevent maturation of the phagosomes in which they reside inside macrophages. The molecular basis for this inhibition is only now beginning to emerge, by way of the molecular characterisation of the phagosome membrane when it encloses virulent mycobacteria. Our own work has shown that at 15 days after the phagocytic uptake of Mycobacterium avium by mouse bone marrow-derived macrophages, the phagosome membrane is depleted about 4-fold for cell surface-derived membrane glycoconjugates, labelled by exogalactosylation, in comparison to the membrane of early endosomes with which it continues to interact. Here we asked whether this depletion occurred at early or late stages after infection. We found that only about half of the depletion had occurred at about 5 hours after the beginning of phagocytic uptake, with the remainder becoming established thereafter, with a half-time of about 2.5 days. Phagosomes became depleted in relation to early endosomes with which they continued to exchange membrane constituents. Early endosomes themselves became gradually depleted by about 30% during the 15-day post-infection period. In contrast, late endosomes/lysosomes remained unchanged, with a concentration of surface-derived glycoconjugates between that of early endosomes and of phagosomes at day 15 post infection. In view of the slowness of the post-infection change of phagosome membrane composition, we proposed that this change did not play a role in preventing maturation immediately after phagosome formation, but rather correlated with the process of maintaining the phagosomes in an immature state.

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