A common set of engulfment genes mediates removal of both apoptotic and necrotic cell corpses in C. elegans

Nat Cell Biol. 2000 Dec;2(12):931-7. doi: 10.1038/35046585.


Similar to mammalian excitotoxic cell death, necrotic-like cell death (NCD) in Caenorhabditis elegans can be initiated by hyperactive ion channels. Here we investigate the requirements for genes that execute and regulate programmed cell death (PCD) in necrotic-like neuronal death caused by a toxic MEC-4 channel. Neither the kinetics of necrosis onset nor the total number of necrotic corpses generated is altered by any C. elegans mutation known to block PCD, which provides genetic evidence that the activating mechanisms for NCD and apoptotic cell death are distinct. In contrast, all previously reported ced genes required for phagocytotic removal of apoptotic corpses, as well as ced-12, a new engulfment gene we have identified, are required for efficient elimination of corpses generated by distinct necrosis-inducing stimuli. Our results show that a common set of genes acts to eliminate cell corpses irrespective of the mode of cell death, and provide the first identification of the C. elegans genes that are required for orderly removal of necrotic cells. As phagocytotic mechanisms seem to be conserved from nematodes to humans, our findings indicate that injured necrotic cells in higher organisms might also be eliminated before lysis through a controlled process of corpse removal, a hypothesis that has significant therapeutic implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / physiology
  • Cell Death / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genes, Helminth*
  • Male
  • Mutation
  • Necrosis
  • Phagocytosis / genetics*
  • Phagocytosis / physiology
  • Phenotype