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Cell Death Differ. 2008 Feb;15(2):243-50. Epub 2007 Jun 15.

Clearance of apoptotic cells by phagocytes.

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  • 1Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, UK.


Phagocytic clearance of apoptotic cells may be considered to consist of four distinct steps: accumulation of phagocytes at the site where apoptotic cells are located; recognition of dying cells through a number of bridge molecules and receptors; engulfment by a unique uptake process; and processing of engulfed cells within phagocytes. Here, we will discuss these individual steps that collectively are essential for the effective removal of apoptotic cells. This will illustrate our relative lack of knowledge about the initial attraction signals, the specific mechanisms of engulfment and processing in comparison to the extensive literature on recognition mechanisms. There is now mounting evidence that clearance defects are responsible for chronic inflammatory disease and contribute to autoimmunity. Therefore, a better understanding of all aspects of the clearance process is required before it can truly be manipulated for therapeutic gain.

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