JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

The clearance of dead cells by efferocytosis

Emilio Boada-Romero, Jennifer Martinez, Bradlee L Heckmann, Douglas R Green
Nature Reviews. Molecular Cell Biology 2020, 21 (7): 398-414
32251387
Multiple modes of cell death have been identified, each with a unique function and each induced in a setting-dependent manner. As billions of cells die during mammalian embryogenesis and daily in adult organisms, clearing dead cells and associated cellular debris is important in physiology. In this Review, we present an overview of the phagocytosis of dead and dying cells, a process known as efferocytosis. Efferocytosis is performed by macrophages and to a lesser extent by other 'professional' phagocytes (such as monocytes and dendritic cells) and 'non-professional' phagocytes, such as epithelial cells. Recent discoveries have shed light on this process and how it functions to maintain tissue homeostasis, tissue repair and organismal health. Here, we outline the mechanisms of efferocytosis, from the recognition of dying cells through to phagocytic engulfment and homeostatic resolution, and highlight the pathophysiological consequences that can arise when this process is abrogated.

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