Measuring the phagocytic activity of cells.
Platt N., Fineran P.
Phagocytosis is a critical biological activity through which the host can protect itself from infectious and non-infectious environmental particles and remove unwanted host cells in order to maintain tissue homeostasis. Phagocytosis is an ancient, conserved process that is apparent in all multicellular organisms. The process of phagocytosis requires the recognition of ligands on particles by specific receptors expressed by the phagocyte that promote internalization via reorganization of cytoskeletal elements and directed formation of the phagosome. Subsequent phagosome-lysosome fusion delivers the contents for destruction and recycling in the acidic compartment. Significantly, receptor engagement and uptake can also trigger intracellular signaling pathways that initiate appropriate innate immune and pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory responses dependent upon the nature of the particle. The important benefits of phagocytosis to host survival are exemplified by the detrimental effects to health that occur when phagocytic efficiency is diminished. In an overview, we discuss the different experimental approaches or options that can be considered when investigating and determining the characteristics and quantification of phagocytic activity. These criteria will include choice of phagocytic cell type, selection, and method of labeling of particle for monitoring internalization, targeting of particles to specific receptors, and quantification of ingestion either at the single cell or at the population level. We provide two detailed examples of phagocytosis assays.