Previous studies have demonstrated that the Mycobacterium tuberculosis phagosome in human monocyte-derived macrophages acquires markers of early and late endosomes, but direct evidence of interaction of the M. tuberculosis phagosome with the endosomal compartment has been lacking. Using the cryosection immunogold technique, we have found that the M. tuberculosis phagosome acquires exogenously added transferrin in a time-dependent fashion. Near-maximal acquisition of transferrin occurs within 15 min, kinetics of acquisition consistent with interaction of the M. tuberculosis phagosome with early endosomes. Transferrin is chased out of the M. tuberculosis phagosome by incubation of the infected macrophages in culture medium lacking human transferrin. Phagosomes containing latex beads or heat-killed M. tuberculosis, on the other hand, do not acquire staining for transferrin. These and other findings demonstrate that M. tuberculosis arrests the maturation of its phagosome at a stage at which the phagosome interacts with early and late endosomes, but not with lysosomes. The transferrin endocytic pathway potentially provides a novel route for targeting antimicrobials to the M. tuberculosis phagosome.

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