How cells engulf: a review of theoretical approaches to phagocytosis
Reports on Progress in Physics
© 2017 IOP Publishing Ltd
Reason for embargo
Phagocytosis is a fascinating process whereby a cell surrounds and engulfs particles such as bacteria and dead cells. This is crucial both for single-cell organisms (as a way of acquiring nutrients) and as part of the immune system (to destroy foreign invaders). This whole process is hugely complex and involves multiple coordinated events such as membrane remodelling, receptor motion, cytoskeleton reorganisation and intracellular signalling. Because of this, phagocytosis is an excellent system for theoretical study, benefiting from biophysical approaches combined with mathematical modelling. Here, we review these theoretical approaches and discuss the recent mathematical and computational models, including models based on receptors, models focusing on the forces involved, and models employing energetic considerations. Along the way, we highlight a beautiful connection to the physics of phase transitions, consider the role of stochasticity, and examine links between phagocytosis and other types of endocytosis. We cover the recently discovered multistage nature of phagocytosis, showing that the size of the phagocytic cup grows in distinct stages, with an initial slow stage followed by a much quicker second stage starting around half engulfment. We also address the issue of target shape dependence, which is relevant to both pathogen infection and drug delivery, covering both one-dimensional and two-dimensional results. Throughout, we pay particular attention to recent experimental techniques that continue to inform the theoretical studies and provide a means to test model predictions. Finally, we discuss population models, connections to other biological processes, and how physics and modelling will continue to play a key role in future work in this area.
DMR and RGE were supported by BBSRC grant BB/I019987/1. DMR was also supported by the Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Award (WT105618MA) and Medical Research Council Grant MR/P022405/1. RGE also acknowledges funding from ERC Starting Grant 280492-PPHPI
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from the publisher via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 80: 126601