The Tyro3, Axl, and Mer (TAM) receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands Gas6 and Protein S are required for the optimal phagocytosis of apoptotic cells in the mature immune, nervous, and reproductive systems. Genetic analyses in mice, rats, and humans reveal that this receptor-ligand system plays an especially important role in the phagocytosis that is triggered by the "eat-me" signal phosphatidylserine. Deficiencies in TAM signaling lead to human retinal dystrophies and may contribute to lupus and other human autoimmune diseases. The TAM system appears to interact and cooperate with several other phagocytic networks, including scavenger receptor and integrin-based systems, and may serve as a signaling hub that integrates these systems.
© 2010 New York Academy of Sciences.