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Nathalie Franc, PhD

Associate Professor Adjunct
Department of Molecular Medicine
California Campus
Laboratory Website
Scripps VIVO Scientific Profile
(858) 784-7658

Other Joint Appointments

Department of Immunology and Microbial Science

Research Focus

Our laboratory studies phagocytosis, the process by which cells that are genetically programmed to die by apoptosis are recognized and cleared by macrophages during embryonic development in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Our ultimate long-term goal is to compare and contrast the molecular mechanisms of phagocytosis of apoptotic cells with that of pathogens, such as bacteria during infection. Failure to clear apoptotic cells has been associated with autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and may also contribute to neurogenerative disorders such as alzheimer and age-related macular degeneration which leads to blindness. Thus, our studies will increase our basic understanding of phagocytosis, an important aspect of the innate cellular immune response and the development of all animals, and ultimately contribute to the design of new drugs to treat diseases associated with failed apoptotic cell clearance, as well as bacterial infection.


B.S., Cell Biology and Physiology, Paul Sabatier University, 1990
M.S., Molecular and Cell Biology, Louis Pasteur University, 1992
Ph.D., Molecular and Cell Biology, Louis Pasteur University, 1996

Professional Experience

Awards & Professional Activities

Irvington Institute for Immunological Research post-doctoral fellow, 1998. MRC programme leader track, MRC Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology & Cell Biology Unit, London, UK, 2001. Member of the Advanced Discovery Institute at The Scripps Research Institute, 2009.

Selected References

All Publications

Han C, Song Y, Xiao H, Wang D, Franc NC, Jan LY and Jan Y-N. 2014. Epidermal Cell Are the Primary Phagocytes in the Fragmentation and Clearance of Degenerating Dendrites in Drosophila. Neuron (2014),

Van Goethem E, Silva EA, Xiao H, Franc NC. 2012. The Drosophila TRPP cation channel, PKD2 and Dmel/Ced-12 act in genetically distinct pathways during apoptotic cell clearance. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31488. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031488. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

Silva EA, Burden J, Franc NC. 2008. In vivo and in vitro methods for studying apoptotic cell engulfment in Drosophila. Methods Enzymol. 2008;446:39-59. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(08)01603-0.

Cuttell L*, Vaughan A*, Silva E, Escaron CJ, Lavine M, Van Goethem E, Eid JP, Quirin M, Franc NC. 2008. Undertaker, a Drosophila junctophilin links Draper-mediated phagocytosis and calcium homeostasis. Cell, 2008, 135(3):524-533.

Silva E*, Au-Yeung HW*, Van Goethem E, Burden J, Franc NC. 2007. Requirement for a Drosophila E3-Ubiquitin ligase in phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. Immunity 2007, 27(4): 585-596.

Franc NC. 2002 Phagocytosis of apoptotic cells in mammals, Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster: molecular mechanisms and physiological consequences. Front Biosci. 2002 May 1;7:d1298-313.

White K, Lisi S, Kurada P, Franc N, Bangs P. 2001. Methods for studying apoptosis and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells in Drosophila tissues and cell lines. Methods Cell Biol. 2001;66:321-38.

Bangs P, Franc N, White K. 2000. Molecular mechanisms of cell death and phagocytosis in Drosophila. Cell Death Differ. 2000 Nov;7(11):1027-34.

Franc NC, White K. 2000. Innate recognition systems in insect immunity and development: new approaches in Drosophila. Microbes Infect. 2000 Mar;2(3):243-50.

Franc NC, Heitzler P, Ezekowitz RAB, White K. 1999. Requirement for croquemort in phagocytosis of apoptotic cells in Drosophila. Science 284:1991-1994.

Franc NC, White K, Ezekowitz RA. 1999. Phagocytosis and development: back to the future. Curr Opin Immunol. 1999 Feb;11(1):47-52.

Franc NC, Dimarcq J-L, Lagueux M, Hoffmann JA, Ezekowitz RAB. 1996. Croquemort, a new Drosophila hemocyte/macrophage receptor that recognizes apoptotic cells. Immunity 4:431-443.