Stabilin-1 is specifically expressed in alternatively activated macrophages. These macrophages participate in anti-inflammatory and healing processes, and display a high phagocytic capacity. In this study, we provide evidence that stabilin-1 is a membrane receptor that performs a crucial function in the clearance of cell corpses. Stabilin-1 is expressed on the cell surface of alternatively activated macrophages and is recruited to the sites of recognition and engulfment of apoptotic bodies, as well as to early phagosomes. Blocking stabilin-1 in macrophages results in defective engulfment of aged red blood cells. Ectopic expression of stabilin-1 induces the binding and engulfment of aged cells in mouse fibroblast L cells. The binding and phagocytosis are dependent on phosphatidylserine (PS), which is well known as an engulfing ligand. Furthermore, using PS-coated beads, we demonstrate that PS directly interacts with stabilin-1 and is sufficient for stabilin-1-mediated phagocytosis. EGF-like domain repeat in stabilin-1 is responsible for PS recognition and binding. Thus, our results demonstrate that stabilin-1, found on alternatively activated macrophages, is a phagocytic receptor mediating the clearance of apoptotic cells in a PS-dependent manner. Therefore, this protein might play an important role in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and prevention of autoimmunity.
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