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Vitronectin receptor-mediated phagocytosis of cells undergoing apoptosis


PHAGOCYTE recognition of cells that have undergone apoptosis (programmed cell death) is an event of broad biological significance. Characterized by endogenous endonuclease activation1, which results in chromatin fragmentation and nuclear condensation2, apoptosis leads to swift ingestion of intact but 'senescent' or 'unwanted' cells by phagocytes in processes as diverse as the physiological involution of organs, the remodelling of embryonic tissues, and metamorphosis3. The cell-surface mechanisms by which macrophages recognize apoptotic cells as 'senescent-self' have remained obscure. Here we report that macrophage recognition of apoptotic cells (both neutrophils and lymphocytes) is mediated by the vitronectin receptor, a heterodimer belonging to the β3 or cytoadhesin family of the integrins4–9. Previously, the functions of the vitronectin receptor were believed to be limited to cell anchorage10–12, but our findings indicate that the receptor has a novel and direct role in self–senescent-self intercellular recognition leading to macrophage phagocytosis of cells undergoing apoptosis.

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Savill, J., Dransfield, I., Hogg, N. et al. Vitronectin receptor-mediated phagocytosis of cells undergoing apoptosis. Nature 343, 170–173 (1990).

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