Experimental Analysis of Apoptotic Thymocyte Engulfment by Macrophages.


Division of Immunology, Allergy, and Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati; [Email]


Cell apoptosis is a natural process and plays a critical role in embryonic development, homeostatic regulation, immune tolerance induction, and resolution of inflammation. Accumulation of apoptotic debris in the body may trigger chronic inflammatory responses that lead to systemic autoimmune diseases over time. Impaired apoptotic cell clearance has been implicated in a variety of autoimmune diseases. Apoptotic clearance is a complex process rarely detected under physiological conditions. It involves abundant surface receptors and signaling molecules. Studying the process of apoptotic cell clearance provides insightful molecular mechanisms and subsequent biological responses, which may lead to the development of new therapeutics. Here, we describe protocols for the induction of apoptotic thymocytes, the preparation of peritoneal macrophages, and the analysis of apoptotic cell clearance by flow cytometry and microscopy. All cells will undergo apoptosis at a certain stage, and many residential and circulating cells can uptake apoptotic debris. Therefore, the protocol described here can be used in many applications to characterize apoptotic cell binding and ingestion by many other cell types.