Phagocytic removal of cells that have become unwanted: Implications for animal development and tissue homeostasis


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Cells that have become unwanted need to be promptly, selectively, and safely removed. This is made possible by apoptosis-dependent phagocytosis, in which cells unnecessary, obstructive, or dangerous to organisms are induced to undergo apoptosis so that they are earmarked for phagocytosis. The phagocytic elimination occurs so quickly that cells with hallmarks of apoptosis are barely detectable in vivo. The removal of particular types of cells at appropriate stages of development not only contributes to the disposal of spent cells, the creation of space for morphogenesis, and the exclusion of pathogenic or noxious cells, but seems to actively control tissue renewal, tissue remodeling, tissue function, and pathogenic state. This event thus plays an indispensable role in the maintenance of animal development and tissue homeostasis.