|Abstract:In macropinocytosis, cells take up micrometre-sized droplets of medium into internal vesicles. These vesicles are acidified and fused to lysosomes, their contents digested and useful compounds extracted. Indigestible contents can be exocytosed. Macropinocytosis has been known for approaching 100 years and is described in both metazoa and amoebae, but not in plants or fungi. Its evolutionary origin goes back to at least the common ancestor of the amoebozoa and opisthokonts, with apparent secondary loss from fungi. The primary function of macropinocytosis in amoebae and some cancer cells is feeding, but the conserved processing pathway for macropinosomes, which involves shrinkage and the retrieval of membrane to the cell surface, has been adapted in immune cells for antigen presentation. Macropinocytic cups are large actin-driven processes, closely related to phagocytic cups and pseudopods and appear to be organized around a conserved signalling patch of PIP3, active Ras and active Rac that directs actin polymerization to its periphery. Patches can form spontaneously and must be sustained by excitable kinetics with strong cooperation from the actin cytoskeleton. Growth-factor signalling shares core components with macropinocytosis, based around phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3-kinase), and we suggest that it evolved to take control of ancient feeding structures through a coupled growth factor receptor. This article is part of the Theo Murphy meeting issue 'Macropinocytosis'.