Apoptotic Cell Death and Efferocytosis in Atherosclerosis
Apoptotic cell death is an important feature of atherosclerotic plaques, and it seems to exert both beneficial and detrimental effects depending on the cell type and plaque stage. Because late apoptotic cells can launch proatherogenic inflammatory responses, adequate engulfment of apoptotic cells (efferocytosis) by macrophages is important to withstand atherosclerosis progression. Several efferocytosis systems, composed of different phagocytic receptors, apoptotic ligands, and bridging molecules, can be distinguished. Because phagocytes in atherosclerotic plaques are very much solicited, a fully operative efferocytosis system seems to be an absolute requisite. Indeed, recent studies demonstrate that deletion of just 1 of the efferocytosis pathways aggravates atherosclerosis. This review discusses the role of apoptosis in atherosclerosis and general mechanisms of efferocytosis, to end with indirect and direct indications of the significance of effective efferocytosis in atherosclerosis.
- Received December 8, 2011.
- Accepted February 1, 2012.
- © 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.