The presence of a negatively charged residue in the transmembrane domain of DAP12 precludes its cell surface expression in the absence of a partner receptor containing a positive charge in its transmembrane domain. We utilized this property of DAP12 to screen a BALB / c macrophage cDNA library for novel molecules that induce cell surface expression of DAP12. By this method, we cloned a cell surface receptor with a single Ig (V) domain, a transmembrane lysine residue, and a short cytoplasmic domain. By homology screening of BALB / c macrophage libraries, we identified a second cDNA for a highly homologous receptor. These receptors appear to be the mouse orthologues of a recently identified human cDNA, TREM-2, so we have designated the receptors as mouse TREM-2a and TREM-2b. By Northern blotting, transcripts for TREM-2 were found in each of three macrophage cell lines but not in a variety of other hematopoietic cell lines. We further demonstrate that TREM-2a is associated with endogenous DAP12 in macrophage cells, and cross-linking of TREM-2a on the surface of macrophages leads to the release of nitric oxide. Our studies define TREM-2 as a receptor family in mouse macrophages and demonstrate the capacity of these receptors to activate macrophage function through DAP12.