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In cell biology, a phagosome is a vesicle formed around a particle engulfed by a phagocyte via phagocytosis. Professional phagocytes include macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells (DCs).[1]

Phagocytosis of a bacterium, showing the formation of phagosome and phagolysosome

A phagosome is formed by the fusion of the cell membrane around a microorganism, a senescent cell or an apoptotic cell. Phagosomes have membrane-bound proteins to recruit and fuse with lysosomes to form mature phagolysosomes. The lysosomes contain hydrolytic enzymes and reactive oxygen species (ROS) which kill and digest the pathogens. Phagosomes can also form in non-professional phagocytes, but they can only engulf a smaller range of particles, and do not contain ROS. The useful materials (e.g. amino acids) from the digested particles are moved into the cytosol, and waste is removed by exocytosis. Phagosome formation is crucial for tissue homeostasis and both innate and adaptive host defense against pathogens.

However, some bacteria can exploit phagocytosis as an invasion strategy. They either reproduce inside of the phagolysosome (e.g. Coxiella spp.)[2] or escape into the cytoplasm before the phagosome fuses with the lysosome (e.g. Rickettsia spp.).[3] Many Mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium tuberculosis[4][5] and Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis,[6] can manipulate the host macrophage to prevent lysosomes from fusing with phagosomes and creating mature phagolysosomes. Such incomplete maturation of the phagosome maintains an environment favorable to the pathogens inside it.[7]