Mer receptor tyrosine kinase mediates both tethering and phagocytosis of apoptotic cells

I Dransfield, A Zagórska, E D Lew, K Michail, G Lemke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Billions of inflammatory leukocytes die and are phagocytically cleared each day. This regular renewal facilitates the normal termination of inflammatory responses, suppressing pro-inflammatory mediators and inducing their anti-inflammatory counterparts. Here we investigate the role of the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) Mer and its ligands Protein S and Gas6 in the initial recognition and capture of apoptotic cells (ACs) by macrophages. We demonstrate extremely rapid binding kinetics of both ligands to phosphatidylserine (PtdSer)-displaying ACs, and show that ACs can be co-opsonized with multiple PtdSer opsonins. We further show that macrophage phagocytosis of ACs opsonized with Mer ligands can occur independently of a requirement for αV integrins. Finally, we demonstrate a novel role for Mer in the tethering of ACs to the macrophage surface, and show that Mer-mediated tethering and subsequent AC engulfment can be distinguished by their requirement for Mer kinase activity. Our results identify Mer as a receptor uniquely capable of both tethering ACs to the macrophage surface and driving their subsequent internalization.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1646
JournalCell Death and Disease
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2015

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