The process of engulfing a foreign particle - phagocytosis - is of fundamental importance for a wide diversity of organisms. From simple unicellular organisms that use phagocytosis to obtain their next meal, to complex metazoans in which phagocytic cells represent an essential branch of the immune system, evolution has armed cells with a fantastic repertoire of molecules that serve to bring about this complex event. Regardless of the organism or specific molecules concerned, however, all phagocytic processes are driven by a finely controlled rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton. A variety of signals can converge to locally reorganise the actin cytoskeleton at a phagosome, and there are significant similarities and differences between different organisms and between different engulfment processes within the same organism. Recent advances have demonstrated the complexity of phagocytic signalling, such as the involvement of phosphoinostide lipids and multicomponent signalling complexes in transducing signals from phagocytic receptors to the cytoskeleton. Similarly, a wide diversity of ‘effector molecules’ are now implicated in actin-remodelling downstream of these receptors.
- © 2001 by Company of Biologists