The removal of unwanted or damaged cells by phagocytes is achieved via a finely regulated cleaning process called efferocytosis. To characterize the mechanisms through which phagocytes control the intake of apoptotic cells, we investigated how the phagocyte's appetite for engulfed cells may be coordinated by RhoA and Rac1 in the phagocytic cup. We used FRET biosensors to visualize the spatiotemporal dynamics of Rho-family GTPases, and found that RhoA, which is known to be downregulated during phagocytosis, was transiently upregulated at the phagocytic cup immediately prior to ingestion. Conversely, Rac1 was upregulated during the engulfment process and then downregulated prior to phagosomal maturation. Moreover, disturbance of the dynamic activities of RhoA led to uncontrolled engulfment, such as fast and undiscerning eating. Our results reveal that the temporal activity of RhoA GTPase alters the Rac1/RhoA balance at the phagocytic cup prior to ingestion, and that this plays a distinct role in orchestrating efferocytosis, with RhoA modulating the rate of engulfment to ensure that the phagocyte engulfs an appropriate amount of the correct material.
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