Current understanding of the mechanisms for clearance of apoptotic cells-a fine balance

Lois A. Hawkins, Andrew Devitt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Apoptosis is an important cell death mechanism by which multicellular organisms remove unwanted cells. It culminates in a rapid, controlled removal of cell corpses by neighboring or recruited viable cells. Whilst many of the molecular mechanisms that mediate corpse clearance are components of the innate immune system, clearance of apoptotic cells is an anti-inflammatory process. Control of cell death is dependent on competing pro-apoptotic and anti-apoptotic signals. Evidence now suggests a similar balance of competing signals is central to the effective removal of cells, through so called 'eat me' and 'don't eat me' signals. Competing signals are also important for the controlled recruitment of phagocytes to sites of cell death. Consequently recruitment of phagocytes to and from sites of cell death can underlie the resolution or inappropriate propagation of cell death and inflammation. This article highlights our understanding of mechanisms mediating clearance of dying cells and discusses those mechanisms controlling phagocyte migration and how inappropriate control may promote important pathologies. © the authors, publisher and licensee libertas academica limited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-68
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cell Death
Issue number3932
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

© the authors, publisher and licensee Libertas Academica Limited. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons
CC-BY-NC 3.0 License.


  • apoptosis
  • apoptotic cell clearance
  • chemotaxis
  • extracellular vesicles
  • phagocyte


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