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Genetics. 1991 Sep;129(1):79-94.

Genes required for the engulfment of cell corpses during programmed cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


After programmed cell death, a cell corpse is engulfed and quickly degraded by a neighboring cell. For degradation to occur, engulfing cells must recognize, phagocytose and digest the corpses of dying cells. Previously, three genes were known to be involved in eliminating cell corpses in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans: ced-1, ced-2 and nuc-1. We have identified five new genes that play a role in this process: ced-5, ced-6, ced-7, ced-8 and ced-10. Electron microscopic studies reveal that mutations in each of these genes prevent engulfment, indicating that these genes are needed either for the recognition of corpses by other cells or for the initiation of phagocytosis. Based upon our study of double mutants, these genes can be divided into two sets. Animals with mutations in only one of these sets of genes have relatively few unengulfed cell corpses. By contrast, animals with mutations in both sets of genes have many unengulfed corpses. These observations suggest that these two sets of genes are involved in distinct and partially redundant processes that act in the engulfment of cell corpses.

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