Clearance of apoptotic cells by phagocytes

L-P Erwig, P. M. Henson

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

331 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-250
Number of pages8
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Early online date15 Jun 2007
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • phagocytosis
  • apoptosis
  • macrophages
  • mannose-binding lectin
  • macrophage recognition
  • phagosome maturation
  • surface calreticulin
  • dependent clearance
  • autoimmune-disease
  • epithelial-cells
  • necrotic cells
  • ERM proteins
  • in-vitro


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