Cell death by phagocytosis – termed ‘phagoptosis’ for short – is a form of cell
death caused by the cell being phagocytosed i.e. recognised, engulfed and digested by
another cell. Phagocytes eat cells that: i) expose ‘eat-me’ signals, ii) lose ‘don’t-eat-me’
signals, and/or iii) bind opsonins. Live cells may express such signals as a result of cell
stress, damage, activation or senescence, which can result in phagoptosis. Phagoptosis may
be the most abundant form of cell death physiologically as it mediates erythrocyte turnover. It
also regulates: reproduction by phagocytosis of sperm, development by removal stem cells and excess cells,
and immunity by removal of activated neutrophils and T cells. Phagoptosis mediates the recognition of non-self
and host defence against pathogens and cancer cells. However, in inflammatory conditions, excessive
phagoptosis may kill our cells, leading to conditions such as hemophagy and neuronal loss.
Keywords: Phagocytosis, apoptosis, cell death, turnover, inflammation, clearance.
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