Research Papers: Autophagy and Cell Death:

Anti-CD47 antibodies induce phagocytosis of live, malignant B cells by macrophages via the Fc domain, resulting in cell death by phagoptosis

Lucy E. Métayer, Anna Vilalta, G.A. Amos Burke and Guy C. Brown _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:60892-60903. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18492

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Lucy E. Métayer1, Anna Vilalta1, G.A. Amos Burke2 and Guy C. Brown1

1 Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

2 Department of Pediatrics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK

Correspondence to:

Guy C. Brown, email:

Keywords: phagocytosis, cell death, leukemia, antibodies, phagoptosis, Autophagy

Received: December 15, 2015 Accepted: April 14, 2017 Published: June 15, 2017


When expressed on the surface of cells, CD47 inhibits phagocytosis of these cells by phagocytes. Most human cancers overexpress CD47, and antibodies to CD47 have shown a remarkable ability to clear a range of cancers in animal models. However, the mechanism by which these antibodies cause cancer cell death is unclear. We find that CD47 is expressed on the surface of three B-cell lines from human malignancies: 697 (pre-B-ALL lymphoblasts), Ramos and DG-75 (both mature B-cells, Burkitt’s lymphoma), and anti-CD47 antibodies greatly increase the phagocytosis of all three cell line by macrophages. In the presence of macrophages, the antibodies cause clearance of the lymphoblasts within hours, but in the absence of macrophages, the antibodies have no effect on lymphoblast viability. Macrophages engulf viable lymphoblasts containing mitochondria with a normal membrane potential, but following engulfment the mitochondrial membrane potential is lost indicating a loss of viability. Inhibition of phagocytosis protects lymphoblasts from death indicating that phagocytosis is required for anti-CD47 mediated cell death. Blocking either the antibody Fc domain or Fc receptors inhibits antibody-induced phagocytosis. Antibodies against cell surface markers CD10 or CD19 also induced Fc-domain-dependent phagocytosis, but at a lower level commensurate with expression. Thus, phagoptosis may contribute to the efficacy of a number of therapeutic antibodies used in cancer therapy, as well as potentially endogenous antibodies. We conclude that anti-CD47 antibodies induce phagocytosis by binding CD47 on lymphoblast and Fc receptors on macrophages, resulting in cell death by phagocytosis, i.e. phagoptosis.

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