Efferocytosis induces a novel SLC program to promote glucose uptake and lactate release.


Development and routine tissue homeostasis require a high turnover of apoptotic cells. These cells are removed by professional and non-professional phagocytes via efferocytosis. How a phagocyte maintains its homeostasis while coordinating corpse uptake, processing ingested materials and secreting anti-inflammatory mediators is incompletely understood. Here, using RNA sequencing to characterize the transcriptional program of phagocytes actively engulfing apoptotic cells, we identify a genetic signature involving 33 members of the solute carrier (SLC) family of membrane transport proteins, in which expression is specifically modulated during efferocytosis, but not during antibody-mediated phagocytosis. We assessed the functional relevance of these SLCs in efferocytic phagocytes and observed a robust induction of an aerobic glycolysis program, initiated by SLC2A1-mediated glucose uptake, with concurrent suppression of the oxidative phosphorylation program. The different steps of phagocytosis-that is, 'smell' ('find-me' signals or sensing factors released by apoptotic cells), 'taste' (phagocyte-apoptotic cell contact) and 'ingestion' (corpse internalization)-activated distinct and overlapping sets of genes, including several SLC genes, to promote glycolysis. SLC16A1 was upregulated after corpse uptake, increasing the release of lactate, a natural by-product of aerobic glycolysis. Whereas glycolysis within phagocytes contributed to actin polymerization and the continued uptake of corpses, lactate released via SLC16A1 promoted the establishment of an anti-inflammatory tissue environment. Collectively, these data reveal a SLC program that is activated during efferocytosis, identify a previously unknown reliance on aerobic glycolysis during apoptotic cell uptake and show that glycolytic by-products of efferocytosis can influence surrounding cells.