Phagocyte recognition and ingestion of intact cells undergoing apoptosis are key events in this generally important program of cell death. Insufficient phagocyte capacity for apoptotic cells can result in failure to clear dying cells before membrane integrity is lost, resulting in leakage of noxious cell contents and severe tissue damage. However, no means has been available to increase phagocytic clearance of apoptotic cells. We now report that transfection of the macrophage adhesion molecule CD36 into human Bowes melanoma cells specifically conferred greatly increased capacity to ingest apoptotic neutrophils, lymphocytes, and fibroblasts, comparable to that exhibited by macrophages. Furthermore, when CD36 was transfected into another cell type with limited capacity to take up apoptotic bodies, the monkey COS-7 cell, similar effects were observed. Therefore, CD36 gene transfer can confer "professional" capacity to ingest apoptotic cells upon "amateur" phagocytes.

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