May 17, 2012

Hit the road, Jack! Cells undergo cell death all the time, but it’s important for a tissue to clear these cells out before problems crop up. Today’s image is from a paper showing the migration of apoptotic cells, and revealing the role a protein called elmo1 in cell corpse clearing.

Apoptosis is programmed cell death, and is as part of normal development and tissue function as cell division is. Apoptotic cells must be cleared out of the healthy tissue, and failure to do so can result in inflammation and autoimmunity. A recent paper describes the clearance of apoptotic cells in the developing brain of zebrafish, using real-time microscopy to track apoptotic cells. van Ham and colleagues found that apoptotic cells are able to migrate to the periphery of the tissue to contribute to their own removal, and use their own actin cytoskeleton to do so. Later in development, cell corpses are engulfed by large macrophage cells with the help of a protein called elmo1, a protein known to play a role in cell engulfment in other tissues. In the images above, a cell in the process of undergoing apoptosis migrates through the neural tube of a zebrafish embryo.

ResearchBlogging.orgvan Ham, T., Kokel, D., & Peterson, R. (2012). Apoptotic Cells Are Cleared by Directional Migration and elmo1- Dependent Macrophage Engulfment Current Biology, 22 (9), 830-836 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.03.027
Copyright ©2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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