Cells undergoing apoptosis during development are removed by phagocytes, but the underlying mechanisms of this process are not fully understood. Phagocytes lacking the phosphatidylserine receptor (PSR) were defective in removing apoptotic cells. Consequently, in PSR-deficient mice, dead cells accumulated in the lung and brain, causing abnormal development and leading to neonatal lethality. A fraction of PSR knockout mice manifested a hyperplasic brain phenotype resembling that of mice deficient in the cell death-associated genes encoding Apaf-1, caspase-3, and caspase-9, which suggests that phagocytes may also be involved in promoting apoptosis. These data demonstrate a critical role for PSR in early stages of mammalian organogenesis and suggest that this receptor may be involved in respiratory distress syndromes and congenital brain malformations.
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