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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Oct 18;108(42):17396-401. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1113421108. Epub 2011 Oct 3.

Microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 alpha (LC3)-associated phagocytosis is required for the efficient clearance of dead cells.

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Department of Immunology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


The recognition and clearance of dead cells is a process that must occur efficiently to prevent an autoimmune or inflammatory response. Recently, a process was identified wherein the autophagy machinery is recruited to pathogen-containing phagosomes, termed MAPLC3A (LC3)-associated phagocytosis (LAP), which results in optimal degradation of the phagocytosed cargo. Here, we describe the engagement of LAP upon uptake of apoptotic, necrotic, and RIPK3-dependent necrotic cells by macrophages. This process is dependent on some members of the classical autophagy pathway, including Beclin1, ATG5, and ATG7. In contrast, ULK1, despite being required for autophagy, is dispensable for LAP induced by uptake of microbes or dead cells. LAP is required for efficient degradation of the engulfed corpse, and in the absence of LAP, engulfment of dead cells results in increased production of proinflammatory cytokines and decreased production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. LAP is triggered by engagement of the TIM4 receptor by either phosphatidylserine (PtdSer)-displaying dead cells or PtdSer-containing liposomes. Therefore, the consequence of phagocytosis of dead cells is strongly affected by those components of the autophagy pathway involved in LAP.

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