Blurred line between chemotactic chase and phagocytic consumption: An immunophysical single-cell perspective

Volkmar Heinrich, Cheng Yuk Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


An innate immune cell can sense a pathogen, either from a distance by recognizing chemoattractant stimuli or by direct physical contact. The pathogen is subsequently neutralized, which usually occurs through its phagocytic internalization. By investigating chemotaxis and phagocytosis from an immunophysical single-cell perspective, it now appears that the demarcation between these two processes is less distinct than originally thought. Several lines of evidence support this notion. First, chemotactic stimulation does not cease at the moment of initial contact between the cell and the pathogenic target. Second, even when classical chemotaxis of neutrophils is suppressed, the early cell response to contact with typical chemoattractant targets, such as zymosan, fungal spores or chemokine-coated particles, can still involve morphological attributes of chemotaxis. Recognizing that the changing morphology of motile cells is inextricably linked to physical cell behavior, this Commentary focuses on the mechanical aspects of the early response of innate immune cells to chemotactic and phagocytic stimuli. On the basis of this perspective, we propose that the combined study of chemotaxis and phagocytosis will, potentially, not only advance our grasp of the mechanisms underlying immune-cell motility but also open new lines of research that will promote a deeper understanding of the innate recognition of pathogens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3041-3051
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number18
StatePublished - Sep 15 2011


  • Cell motility
  • Chemotaxis
  • Immunophysics
  • Innate immune recognition
  • Micropipette manipulation
  • Phagocytosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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