Bring out your dead — hungry receptors await

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Science  26 Sep 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6204, pp. 1575
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6204.1575-c

Every day billions of cells die within the body. Specialized cells called phagocytes patrol the blood and act as cellular garbage collectors, clearing dead cells to prevent tissue damage and inflammation. Phagocytes recognize dead cells because they express molecular “eat me” signals on their surfaces. Zagórska et al. examined how mouse phagocytes use different cellular protein receptors, called TAMs, during this process. The TAM receptors Mer and Axl recognize the “eat me” signals on the surface of dead cells. Mer kept the peace by removing the dead cells that accumulate during normal wear and tear. In contrast, during inflammation, Axl protein expression increased and it took over the removal process from Mer.

Nat. Immunol. 10.1038/ni.2986 (2014).

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