Missing in action-The meaning of cell death in tissue damage and inflammation

Immunol Rev. 2017 Nov;280(1):26-40. doi: 10.1111/imr.12569.


Billions of cells die every day in higher organisms as part of the normal process of tissue homeostasis. During special conditions like in development, acute infections, mechanical injuries, and immunity, cell death is a common denominator and it exerts profound effects in the outcome of these scenarios. To prevent the accumulation of aged, superfluous, infected, damaged and dead cells, professional phagocytes act in a rapid and efficient manner to clear the battle field and avoid spread of the destruction. Neutrophils are the most abundant effector immune cells that extravasate into tissues and can turn injured tissues into gory battle fields. In peace times, neutrophils tend to patrol tissues without provoking inflammatory reactions. We discuss in this review actual and forgotten knowledge about the meaning of cell death during homeostatic processes and drive the attention to the importance of the action of neutrophils during patrolling and for the maintenance or recovery of the homeostatic state once the organism gets attacked or injured, respectively. In this fashion, we disclose several disease conditions that arise as collateral damage of physiological responses to death.

Keywords: apoptosis; clearance; gout; necrosis; neutrophil extracellular traps; pancreatitis; systemic lupus erythematosus; thrombosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death*
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism
  • Homeostasis*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Inflammation / psychology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Phagocytes / physiology