The role of the innate immune system in the clearance of apoptotic cells

  • Leanne Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Rapid clearance of dying cells is a vital feature of apoptosis throughout development, tissue homeostasis and resolution of inflammation. The phagocytic removal of apoptotic cells is mediated by both professional and amateur phagocytes, armed with a series of pattern recognition receptors that participate in host defence and apoptotic cell clearance. CD14 is one such molecule. It is involved in apoptotic cell clearance (known to be immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory) and binding of the pathogen-associated molecular pattern, lipopolysaccharides (a pro-inflammatory event). Thus CD14 is involved in the assembly of two distinct ligand-dependent macrophage responses. This project sought to characterise the involvement of the innate immune system, particularly CD14, in the removal of apoptotic cells. The role of non-myeloid CD14 was also considered and the data suggests that the expression of CD14 by phagocytes may define their professional status as phagocytes.
To assess if differential CD14 ligation causes the ligand-dependent divergence in macrophage responses, a series of CD14 point mutants were used to map the binding of apoptotic cells and lipopolysaccharides. Monoclonal antibodies, 61D3 and MEM18, known to interfere with ligand-binding and responses, were also mapped. Data suggests that residue 11 of CD14, is key for the binding of 61D3 (but not MEM18), LPS and apoptotic cells, indicating lipopolysaccharides and apoptotic cells bind to similar residues. Furthermore using an NF-kB reporter, results show lipopolysaccharides but not apoptotic cells stimulate NF-kB. Taken together these data suggests ligand-dependent CD14 responses occur via a mechanism that occurs downstream of CD14 ligation but upstream of NF-?B activation. Alternatively apoptotic cell ligation of CD14 may not result in any signalling event, possibly by exclusion of TLR-4, suggesting that engulfment receptors, (e.g. TIM-4, BAI1 and Stablin-2) are required to mediate the uptake of apoptotic cells and the associated anti-inflammatory response.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorAndrew Devitt (Supervisor)


  • innate immune system
  • apoptotic cells

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