The role of phosphatidylserine in recognition of apoptotic cells by phagocytes

Cell Death Differ. 1998 Jul;5(7):551-62. doi: 10.1038/sj.cdd.4400404.


Exposure of phosphatidylserine on the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane is a surface change common to many apoptotic cells. Normally restricted to the inner leaflet, phosphatidylserine appears as a result of decreased aminophospholipid translocase activity and activation of a calcium-dependent scramblase. Phosphatidylserine exposure has several potential biological consequences, one of which is recognition and removal of the apoptotic cell by phagocytes. It is still not clear which receptors mediate PS recognition on apoptotic cells; however, several interesting candidates have been proposed. These include the Class B scavenger and thrombospondin receptor CD36, an oxLDL receptor (CD68), CD14, annexins, beta2 glycoprotein I, gas-6 and a novel activity expressed on macrophages stimulated with digestible particles such as beta-glucan. Whether PS is the sole ligand recognized by phagocytes or whether it associated with other molecules to form a complex ligand remains to be determined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Phagocytes / physiology*
  • Phosphatidylserines / physiology*


  • Phosphatidylserines