Phagocytosis of yeast cell walls and of Bacillus megaterium by human, rabbit, and chicken polymorphonuclear leucocytes has been observed by phase contrast microscopy and recorded on motion picture film. In suitably thin preparations intracellular events could be visualized well.
Lysis of cytoplasmic granules began early in the course of the ingestion process, rupture occurring only in granules adjacent to the microorganism being engulfed. Formation of a visible vacuole about the ingested particle frequently followed degranulation.
Chicken polymorphonuclear leucocytes, with their large phase-dense granules, were particularly suitable subjects for observations on detailed morphologic aspects of granule lysis. Rupture took place rapidly (0.1 second or less); in place of the granule there appeared a clear zone, often with a small phase-dense round structure in its center. Also accompanying granule lysis was an increase in phase density of the adjacent surface of the microorganism. Over the course of the following few seconds the darkening on the organism faded, the dense small body disappeared from view, and the clear zone contracted towards the engulfed particle.
The observations are discussed in relation to the hypothesis that fusion takes place between the granule membrane and the invaginated cell membrane overlying the ingested particle, with discharge of granule contents directly into the phagocytic vacuole.