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Clin Immunol. 2009 Oct;133(1):138-44. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2009.06.002. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

The Mer receptor tyrosine kinase is expressed on discrete macrophage subpopulations and mainly uses Gas6 as its ligand for uptake of apoptotic cells.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


The Mer receptor tyrosine kinase is both an important mediator of apoptotic cell phagocytosis and a regulator of macrophage and DC cytokine production. Since phenotypically distinguishable macrophages are known to have different functions, we have examined Mer expression of murine splenic macrophages. We also used serum deficient in the Mer ligand, growth arrest-specific protein 6 (Gas6) to define better the role of this Mer ligand in macrophage function. By immunofluorescence staining, we found Mer to be strongly expressed in splenic red pulp, largely on platelets. We also found Mer expression on marginal zone macrophages. Strikingly, all tingible body macrophages bore Mer. In functional phagocytosis assays of apoptotic cells, Gas6 appeared to be the sole ligand for Mer, and this system accounted for about 30% of splenic macrophage phagocytosis of apoptotic cells. Taken together, the expression pattern of Mer on macrophage subpopulations in the spleen and its Gas6-dependent role in macrophage phagocytosis suggest an important role for Mer in the modulation of immune responses.

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