Requirement for Rho GTPases and PI 3-kinases during apoptotic cell phagocytosis by macrophages

Curr Biol. 2001 Feb 6;11(3):195-9. doi: 10.1016/s0960-9822(01)00047-1.


In vivo, apoptotic cells are removed by surrounding phagocytes, a process thought to be essential for tissue remodeling and the resolution of inflammation [1]. Although apoptotic cells are known to be efficiently phagocytosed by macrophages, the mechanisms whereby their interaction with the phagocytes triggers their engulfment have not been described in mammals. Here, we report that primary murine bone marrow-derived macrophages (using alpha(v)beta(3) integrin for apoptotic cell uptake) extend lamellipodia to engulf apoptotic cells and form an actin cup where phosphotyrosine accumulates. Rho GTPases and PI 3-kinases have been widely implicated in the regulation of the actin cytoskeleton [2, 3]. We show that inhibition of Rho GTPases by Clostridium difficile toxin B prevents apoptotic cell phagocytosis and inhibits the accumulation of both F-actin and phosphotyrosine. Importantly, the Rho GTPases Rac1 and Cdc42 are required for apoptotic cell uptake whereas Rho inhibition enhances uptake. The PI 3-kinase inhibitor LY294002 also prevents apoptotic cell phagocytosis but has no effect on the accumulation of F actin and phosphotyrosine. These results indicate that both Rho GTPases and PI 3-kinases are involved in apoptotic cell phagocytosis but that they play distinct roles in this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / drug effects
  • Chromones / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Phagocytosis*
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / metabolism*
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors


  • Chromones
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Morpholines
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one
  • GTP Phosphohydrolases