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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 30;8(7):e70691. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070691. Print 2013.

The N-terminus of CD14 acts to bind apoptotic cells and confers rapid-tethering capabilities on non-myeloid cells.

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School of Life & Health Sciences & Aston Research Centre for Healthy Ageing, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Cell death and removal of cell corpses in a timely manner is a key event in both physiological and pathological situations including tissue homeostasis and the resolution of inflammation. Phagocytic clearance of cells dying by apoptosis is a complex sequential process comprising attraction, recognition, tethering, signalling and ultimately phagocytosis and degradation of cell corpses. A wide range of molecules acting as apoptotic cell-associated ligands, phagocyte-associated receptors or soluble bridging molecules have been implicated within this process. The role of myeloid cell CD14 in mediating apoptotic cell interactions with macrophages has long been known though key molecules and residues involved have not been defined. Here we sought to further dissect the function of CD14 in apoptotic cell clearance. A novel panel of THP-1 cell-derived phagocytes was employed to demonstrate that CD14 mediates effective apoptotic cell interactions with macrophages in the absence of detectable TLR4 whilst binding and responsiveness to LPS requires TLR4. Using a targeted series of CD14 point mutants expressed in non-myeloid cells we reveal CD14 residue 11 as key in the binding of apoptotic cells whilst other residues are reported as key for LPS binding. Importantly we note that expression of CD14 in non-myeloid cells confers the ability to bind rapidly to apoptotic cells. Analysis of a panel of epithelial cells reveals that a number naturally express CD14 and that this is competent to mediate apoptotic cell clearance. Taken together these data suggest that CD14 relies on residue 11 for apoptotic cell tethering and it may be an important tethering molecule on so called 'non-professional' phagocytes thus contributing to apoptotic cell clearance in a non-myeloid setting. Furthermore these data establish CD14 as a rapid-acting tethering molecule, expressed in monocytes, which may thus confer responsiveness of circulating monocytes to apoptotic cell derived material.

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