Molecular mechanisms of late apoptotic/necrotic cell clearance

Cell Death Differ. 2010 Mar;17(3):381-97. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2009.195. Epub 2009 Dec 18.


Phagocytosis serves as one of the key processes involved in development, maintenance of tissue homeostasis, as well as in eliminating pathogens from an organism. Under normal physiological conditions, dying cells (e.g., apoptotic and necrotic cells) and pathogens (e.g., bacteria and fungi) are rapidly detected and removed by professional phagocytes such as macrophages and dendritic cells (DCs). In most cases, specific receptors and opsonins are used by phagocytes to recognize and bind their target cells, which can trigger the intracellular signalling events required for phagocytosis. Depending on the type of target cell, phagocytes may also release both immunomodulatory molecules and growth factors to orchestrate a subsequent immune response and wound healing process. In recent years, evidence is growing that opsonins and receptors involved in the removal of pathogens can also aid the disposal of dying cells at all stages of cell death, in particular plasma membrane-damaged cells such as late apoptotic and necrotic cells. This review provides an overview of the molecular mechanisms and the immunological outcomes of late apoptotic/necrotic cell removal and highlights the striking similarities between late apoptotic/necrotic cell and pathogen clearance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis* / immunology
  • Apoptosis* / physiology
  • Complement Activation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Necrosis* / immunology
  • Phagocytosis* / immunology
  • Phagocytosis* / physiology