We characterized the Mycobacterium marinum phagosome by using a variety of endocytic markers to follow the path of the bacteria through a mouse macrophage cell line. Using a laser confocal microscope, we found that the majority of viable M. marinum cells were in nonacidic vacuoles that did not colocalize with the vacuolar proton ATPase (V-ATPase), the calcium-independent mannose-6-phosphate receptor (CI-M6PR), or cathepsin D. In contrast, heat-killed organisms and latex beads were in acidic vacuoles which contained the V-ATPase, the CI-M6PR, and cathepsin D. A population of vesicles that contained live M. marinum labeled with the lysosomal glycoprotein LAMP-1, but the percentage of vacuoles that labeled was lower than for heat-killed organisms or latex beads. When testing live and heat-killed Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we found levels of colocalization with LAMP- and cathepsin D comparable to those for the M. marinum isolate. We conclude that M. marinum, like M. tuberculosis, can circumvent the host endocytic pathway and reside in an intracellular compartment which is not acidic and does not fuse with lysosomes. In addition, we describe a system for sampling a large population of intracellular organisms by using a laser confocal microscope.
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