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Traffic. 2012 Aug;13(8):1042-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2012.01358.x. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Mycobacteria and the intraphagosomal environment: take it with a pinch of salt(s)!

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Départment de Biochimie, Faculté des Sciences, Université de Genève, Sciences II, 30 quai Ernest Ansermet, CH-1211, Genève-4, Switzerland.

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  • Traffic. 2013 Jun;14(6):737.


Ancient protozoan phagocytes and modern professional phagocytes of metazoans, such as macrophages, employ evolutionarily conserved mechanisms to kill microbes. These mechanisms rely on microbial ingestion, followed by maturation of the phagocytic vacuole, or so-called phagosome. Phagosome maturation includes a series of fusion and fission events with the host cell endosomes and lysosomes, leading to a rapid increase of the degradative properties of the vacuole and to the destruction of the ingested microbe within a very hostile intracellular compartment, the phagolysosome. Historically, the mechanisms and weapons used by phagocytes to kill microbes have been separated into different classes. Phagosomal acidification, together with the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, the selective manipulation of various ions in the phagosomal lumen, and finally the engagement of a battery of acidic hydrolases, are well-recognized players in this process. However, it is relatively recently that interconnections among these mechanisms have become apparent. In this review, we will focus on some emerging concepts about these interconnected aspects of the warfare at the host-pathogen interface, using mostly Mycobacterium tuberculosis as an example of intracellular pathogen. In particular, recent discoveries on the role of phagosomal ions and other chemicals in the control of pathogens, as well as mechanisms evolved by intracellular pathogens to circumvent or even exploit the weapons of the host cell will be discussed.

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