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Complement receptor-3 negatively regulates the phagocytosis of degenerated myelin through tyrosine kinase Syk and cofilin

Smadar Hadas1, Maya Spira12, Uwe-Karsten Hanisch3, Fanny Reichert1 and Shlomo Rotshenker1*

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Medical Neurobiology, IMRIC, Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, Ein-Kerem, 12272, Jerusalem, 91120, Israel

2 Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan, Israel

3 Institute of Neuropathology, University of Gottingen, Gottingen, Germany

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:166  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-166

Published: 9 July 2012



Intact myelin, which normally surrounds axons, breaks down in Wallerian degeneration following axonal injury and during neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Clearance of degenerated myelin by phagocytosis is essential since myelin impedes repair and exacerbates damage. CR3 (complement receptor-3) is a principal phagocytic receptor in myelin phagocytosis. We studied how tyrosine kinase Syk (spleen tyrosine kinase) and cofilin control phagocytosis of degenerated myelin by CR3 in microglia and macrophages. Syk is a non-receptor tyrosine kinase that CR3 recruits to convey cellular functions. Cofilin is an actin-depolymerizing protein that controls F-actin (filamentous actin) remodeling (i.e., disassembly and reassembly) by shifting between active unphosphorylated and inactive phosphorylated states.


Syk was continuously activated during prolonged phagocytosis. Phagocytosis increased when Syk activity and expression were reduced, suggesting that normally Syk down regulates CR3-mediated myelin phagocytosis. Levels of inactive p-cofilin (phosphorylated cofilin) decreased transiently during prolonged phagocytosis. In contrast, p-cofilin levels decreased continuously when Syk activity and expression were continuously reduced, suggesting that normally Syk advances the inactive state of cofilin. Observations also revealed inverse relationships between levels of phagocytosis and levels of inactive p-cofilin, suggesting that active unphosphorylated cofilin advances phagocytosis. Active cofilin could advance phagocytosis by promoting F-actin remodeling, which supports the production of membrane protrusions (e.g., filopodia), which, as we also revealed, are instrumental in myelin phagocytosis.


CR3 both activates and downregulates myelin phagocytosis at the same time. Activation was previously documented. We presently demonstrate that downregulation is mediated through Syk, which advances the inactive phosphorylated state of cofilin. Self-negative control of phagocytosis by the phagocytic receptor can be useful in protecting phagocytes from excessive phagocytosis (i.e., “overeating”) during extended exposure to particles that are destined for ingestion.

Microglia; Macrophage; Phagocytosis; Myelin; Complement receptor-3; Syk; Cofilin