Macrophage engulfment of a cell or nanoparticle is regulated by unavoidable opsonization, a species-specific 'Marker of Self' CD47, and target physical properties

Curr Opin Immunol. 2015 Aug;35:107-12. doi: 10.1016/j.coi.2015.06.013. Epub 2015 Jul 13.


Professional phagocytes of the mononuclear phagocyte system (MPS), especially ubiquitous macrophages, are commonly thought to engulf or not a target based strictly on 'eat me' molecules such as Antibodies. The target might be a viable 'self' cell or a drug-delivering nanoparticle, or it might be a cancer cell or a microbe. 'Marker of Self' CD47 signals into a macrophage to inhibit the acto-myosin cytoskeleton that makes engulfment efficient. In adhesion of any cell, the same machinery is generally activated by rigidity of target surfaces, and recent results confirm phagocytosis is likewise driven by the rigidity typical of microbes and many synthetics. Basic insights are already being applied in order to make macrophages eat cancer or to delay nanoparticle clearance for better drug delivery and imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • CD47 Antigen / metabolism*
  • Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Mononuclear Phagocyte System*
  • Nanoparticles / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis
  • Protein Binding


  • Autoantigens
  • CD47 Antigen