Growing evidence exists for a new role for apoptotic cell recognition and clearance in immune homeostasis. Apoptotic cells at all stages, irrespective of membrane integrity, elicit a signature set of signaling events in responding phagocytes, both professional and non-professional. These signaling events are initiated by receptor-mediated recognition of apoptotic determinants, independently of species, cell type, or apoptotic stimulus. We propose that the ability of phagocytes to respond to apoptotic targets with a characteristic set of signaling events comprises a second distinct dimension of innate immunity, as opposed to the traditional innate discrimination of self vs. non-self. We further propose that a loss or abnormality of the signaling events elicited by apoptotic cells, as distinct from the actual clearance of those cells, may predispose to autoimmunity.
- Innate immunity
- Signal transduction