P2X<inf>7</inf> is a scavenger receptor for apoptotic cells in the absence of its ligand, extracellular ATP

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Journal Article
Journal of Immunology, 2011, 187 (5), pp. 2365 - 2375
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Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells is essential during development and tissue remodeling. Our previous study has shown that the P2X7 receptor regulates phagocytosis of nonopsonized particles and bacteria. In this study, we demonstrate that P2X7 also mediates phagocytosis of apoptotic lymphocytes and neuronal cells by human monocyte-derived macrophages under serum-free conditions. ATP inhibited this process to a similar extent as observed with cytochalasin D. P2X7-transfected HEK-293 cells acquired the ability to phagocytose apoptotic lymphocytes. Injection of apoptotic thymocytes into the peritoneal cavity of wild-type mice resulted in their phagocytosis by macrophages, but injection of ATP prior to thymocytes markedly decreased this uptake. In contrast, ATP failed to inhibit phagocytosis of apoptotic thymocytes in vivo by P2X7-deficient peritoneal macrophages. The surface expression of P2X7 on phagocytes increased significantly during phagocytosis of either beads or apoptotic cells. A peptide screen library containing 24 biotin-conjugated peptides mimicking the extracellular domain of P2X7 was used to evaluate the binding profile to beads, bacteria, and apoptotic cells. One peptide showed binding to all particles and cell membrane lipids. Three other cysteine-containing peptides uniquely bound the surface of apoptotic cells but not viable cells, whereas substitution of alanine for cysteine abolished peptide binding. Several thiol-reactive compounds including N-acetyl-L-cysteine abolished phagocytosis of apoptotic SH-SY5Y cells by macrophages. These data suggest that the P2X 7 receptor in its unactivated state acts like a scavenger receptor, and its extracellular disulphide bonds play an important role in direct recognition and engulfment of apoptotic cells. Copyright © 2011 by The American Association of Immunologists, Inc.
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