AAT Bioquest

What's the difference between endocytosis and phagocytosis?

Posted July 27, 2022


Endocytosis and phagocytosis are two mechanisms in which cells engulf and ingest materials. Highlight of the differences between these two processes: 


Endocytosis refers to the taking in of matter into the cell for various metabolic purposes. In endocytosis, the cell membrane of a living cell forms a vesicle around the matter before taking it in. Endocytosis is composed of three categories based on the mechanisms and the distinct types of material that’s taken in:

  • phagocytosis,
  • pinocytosis
  • receptor-mediated endocytosis. 

During endocytosis, the cell engulfs macromolecules as well as particles including but not limited to fluids with their solutes, dead cells, enzymes, hormones and cell debris.   


Phagocytosis refers to the taking in of matter into the cell as a defense mechanism. In phagocytosis, the cell engulfs large solid matter by forming phagosomes. Phagocytosis is one of three categories of endocytosis. During phagocytosis, the cells engulf only large solid particles including but not limited to dead cells, cell debris, bacteria, pathogens, small mineral particles, and dust particles. 

Additional resources

Target shape dependence in a simple model of receptor-mediated endocytosis and phagocytosis

Cell Meter™ Fluorimetric Phagocytosis Assay Kit *Red Fluorescence*

Cell Cytotoxicity