Identification of Tim4 as a phosphatidylserine receptor

Nature. 2007 Nov 15;450(7168):435-9. doi: 10.1038/nature06307. Epub 2007 Oct 24.


In programmed cell death, a large number of cells undergo apoptosis, and are engulfed by macrophages to avoid the release of noxious materials from the dying cells. In definitive erythropoiesis, nuclei are expelled from erythroid precursor cells and are engulfed by macrophages. Phosphatidylserine is exposed on the surface of apoptotic cells and on the nuclei expelled from erythroid precursor cells; it works as an 'eat me' signal for phagocytes. Phosphatidylserine is also expressed on the surface of exosomes involved in intercellular signalling. Here we established a library of hamster monoclonal antibodies against mouse peritoneal macrophages, and found an antibody that strongly inhibited the phosphatidylserine-dependent engulfment of apoptotic cells. The antigen recognized by the antibody was identified by expression cloning as a type I transmembrane protein called Tim4 (T-cell immunoglobulin- and mucin-domain-containing molecule; also known as Timd4). Tim4 was expressed in Mac1+ cells in various mouse tissues, including spleen, lymph nodes and fetal liver. Tim4 bound apoptotic cells by recognizing phosphatidylserine via its immunoglobulin domain. The expression of Tim4 in fibroblasts enhanced their ability to engulf apoptotic cells. When the anti-Tim4 monoclonal antibody was administered into mice, the engulfment of apoptotic cells by thymic macrophages was significantly blocked, and the mice developed autoantibodies. Among the other Tim family members, Tim1, but neither Tim2 nor Tim3, specifically bound phosphatidylserine. Tim1- or Tim4-expressing Ba/F3 B cells were bound by exosomes via phosphatidylserine, and exosomes stimulated the interaction between Tim1 and Tim4. These results indicate that Tim4 and Tim1 are phosphatidylserine receptors for the engulfment of apoptotic cells, and may also be involved in intercellular signalling in which exosomes are involved.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Cricetinae
  • Cricetulus
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Library
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism*
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Phagocytosis*
  • Phosphoserine / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • TIM-4 protein, mouse
  • phosphatidylserine receptor
  • Phosphoserine