Cytoprotective effect of autophagy on phagocytosis of apoptotic cells by macrophages

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Abstract

Clearance of the apoptotic cells by phagocytes plays pivotal roles in maintenance of tissue homeostasis, promotion of immunological tolerance and anti-inflammatory response. Recent studies show that autophagy is involved in phagocytosis of the apoptotic cells. However, contribution of autophagy to phagocytosis of the apoptotic cells by macrophages is not clearly defined. Here, we assessed cytoprotective effect of autophagy on clearance of the apoptotic cells. Apoptosis of murine splenic lymphocytes and human T-cell leukemia cells was induced with cyclophosphamide. After engulfment of the apoptotic cells, expression of Belin-1 and LC3 in macrophages was upregulated, the number of MDC-positive vesicles, LC3-positive autophagosomes and autophagic ultrastructures increased significantly. Autophagosome was fused with phagosome containing fragments of the nuclei or other debris of the apoptotic cells to form amphisome. Some cells in macrophages phagocytosing the apoptotic cells became apoptotic. After autophagy of macrophages was inhibited with 3-MA, viability and survival of macrophages reduced, phagocytosis of the apoptotic cells by macrophages deceased significantly. These results demonstrate that autophagy plays an important role in promoting clearance of the apoptotic cells by protecting macrophages from apoptosis during phagocytosis as well as degrading the contents of phagosomes via amphisome formation.

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