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J Immunol. 1992 Dec 15;149(12):4029-35.

Different populations of macrophages use either the vitronectin receptor or the phosphatidylserine receptor to recognize and remove apoptotic cells.

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  • 1National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, Denver, CO 80206.


One of the key features associated with programmed cell death in many tissues is the phagocytosis of apoptotic bodies by macrophages. Removal of apoptotic cells occurs before their lysis, indicating that these cells, during the development of apoptosis, express specific surface changes recognized by macrophages. We have compared the mechanisms by which four different macrophage populations recognize apoptotic cells. Murine macrophages elicited into the peritoneal cavity with either of two different phlogistic agents were able to phagocytose apoptotic cells. This phagocytosis was inhibited by phosphatidylserine (PS), regardless of the species (human or murine) or type (lymphocyte or neutrophil) of the apoptotic cell. In contrast, the murine bone marrow macrophage, like the human monocyte-derived macrophage, utilized the vitronectin receptor, an alpha v beta 3 integrin, for the removal of apoptotic cells, regardless of their species or type. That human macrophages are capable, under some circumstances, of recognizing PS on apoptotic cells was suggested by the observation that PS liposomes inhibited phagocytosis by phorbol ester-treated THP-1 cells. These results suggest that the mechanism by which apoptotic cells are recognized and phagocytosed by macrophages is determined by the subpopulation of macrophages studied.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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