Phagoptosis - Cell Death By Phagocytosis - Plays Central Roles in Physiology, Host Defense and Pathology

Curr Mol Med. 2015;15(9):842-51. doi: 10.2174/156652401509151105130628.


Cell death by phagocytosis - termed 'phagoptosis' for short - is a form of cell death caused by the cell being phagocytosed i.e. recognised, engulfed and digested by another cell. Phagocytes eat cells that: i) expose 'eat-me' signals, ii) lose 'don't-eat-me' signals, and/or iii) bind opsonins. Live cells may express such signals as a result of cell stress, damage, activation or senescence, which can result in phagoptosis. Phagoptosis may be the most abundant form of cell death physiologically as it mediates erythrocyte turnover. It also regulates: reproduction by phagocytosis of sperm, development by removal stem cells and excess cells, and immunity by removal of activated neutrophils and T cells. Phagoptosis mediates the recognition of non-self and host defence against pathogens and cancer cells. However, in inflammatory conditions, excessive phagoptosis may kill our cells, leading to conditions such as hemophagy and neuronal loss.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Death
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Opsonin Proteins / metabolism
  • Phagocytosis / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Opsonin Proteins