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Curr Biol. 2009 Feb 24;19(4):346-51. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.01.042. Epub 2009 Feb 12.

The phosphatidylserine receptor TIM-4 does not mediate direct signaling.

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Beirne B. Carter Center for Immunology Research, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 22908, USA.


Engulfment of apoptotic cells is an active process coordinated by receptors on phagocytes and ligands on apoptotic cells [1]. Phosphatidylserine (PtdSer) is a key ligand on apoptotic cells, and recently three PtdSer recognition receptors have been identified, namely, TIM-4, BAI1, and Stabilin-2 [1-6]. Whereas BAI1 is dependent on the ELMO1/Dock180/Rac signaling module, and Stablilin-2 appears to use the intracellular adaptor GULP [2, 3, 7], little is known about how TIM-4 transduces signals downstream of PtdSer recognition [8]. To test the role of known engulfment signaling pathways in TIM-4-mediated engulfment, we used a combination of dominant-negative mutants, knockdown of specific signaling proteins, and knockout cell lines. TIM-4 appears to be largely independent of the two known engulfment signaling pathways [7, 9-17], yet the TIM-4-mediated uptake is inhibited by cytoskeleton disrupting drugs. Remarkably, a version of TIM-4 lacking its cytoplasmic tail promoted corpse uptake via PtdSer recognition. Moreover, replacement of the transmembrane region of TIM-4 with a glycophosphatidylinositol anchor still promoted engulfment comparable to wild-type TIM-4. Thus, the transmembrane region and cytoplasmic tail of TIM-4 are dispensable for apoptotic cell engulfment, and we propose that TIM-4 is a PtdSer tethering receptor without any direct signaling of its own.

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