To maintain organismal homeostasis, phagocytes engulf dead cells, which are recognized as dead by virtue of a characteristic "eat me" signal exposed on their surface. The dead cells are then transferred to lysosomes, where their cellular components are degraded for reuse. Inefficient engulfment of dead cells activates the immune system, causing disease such as systemic lupus erythematosus, and if the DNA of the dead cells is not properly degraded, the innate immune response becomes activated, leading to severe anemia and chronic arthritis. Here, we discuss how the endogenous components of dead cells activate the immune system through both extracellular and intracellular pathways.
(c) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.