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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2005 Apr;16(2):295-306. Epub 2005 Jan 20.

Clearance of apoptotic cells in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, One Baylor Plaza, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Programmed cell death, or apoptosis, is a genetically controlled process of cell suicide that is a common fate during an animal's life. In metazoans, apoptotic cells are rapidly removed from the body through the process of phagocytosis. Genetic analyses probing the mechanisms controlling the engulfment of apoptotic cells were pioneered in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. So far, at least seven genes have been identified that are required for the recognition and engulfment of apoptotic cells and have been shown to function in two partially redundant signaling pathways. Molecular characterization of their gene products has lead to the finding that similar genes act to control the same processes in other organisms, including mammals. In this paper, we review these exciting findings in C. elegans and discuss their implications in understanding the clearance of apoptotic cells in mammals.

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