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J Leukoc Biol. 1992 Sep;52(3):269-73.

Phagocytosis of apoptotic neutrophils does not induce macrophage release of thromboxane B2.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


Senescent human neutrophils undergo programmed cell death (apoptosis), leading to their recognition and phagocytosis by mature macrophages. At inflamed sites in vivo these processes may represent a neutrophil removal mechanism with the potential to limit the histotoxic capacity of these cells. Phagocytosis can provoke marked proinflammatory responses by macrophages. A macrophage proinflammatory response to the ingestion of apoptotic neutrophils would limit the efficacy of this neutrophil removal mechanism as a component of inflammatory resolution. In the present study we examined two macrophage proinflammatory responses; secretion of the granule enzyme N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) and release of the membrane lipid-derived inflammatory mediator thromboxane A2 (TxA2, measured as TxB2). By contrast with the marked release of NAG and TxB2 elicited by phagocytosis of control particles (opsonised zymosan and immunoglobulin G-coated erythrocytes), macrophage ingestion of apoptotic neutrophils resulted in minimal release of NAG and no release of TxB2; indeed, there was a small depression of TxB2 release that was not due to a toxic effect of neutrophil uptake because macrophages ingesting apoptotic neutrophils retained marked TxB2 responses to subsequent stimulation with opsonised zymosan. Furthermore, there was significant TxB2 release in response to macrophage phagocytosis of apoptotic neutrophils that had been coated with opsonic serum, demonstrating that the lack of macrophage response was determined by the mechanism of recognition rather than the properties of the apoptotic particle itself. These observations are consistent with the hypothesis that macrophage clearance of senscent neutrophils undergoing apoptosis is an injury-limiting mechanism that favors resolution rather than persistence of the inflammatory response and are consistent with observations that the waves of apoptotic cell removal seen in embryological removal and thymic involution do not trigger an inflammatory response.

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