Macrophage recognition and phagocytosis of crystals is critical for the associated fibrosis and cancer. Of note, multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs), the highly representative products of nanotechnology, induce macrophage NLRP3 inflammasome activation and cause asbestosis-like pathogenesis. However, it remains largely unknown how macrophages efficiently recognize MWCNTs on their cell surfaces. Here, we identify by a targeted screening of phagocyte receptors the phosphatidylserine receptors T cell immunoglobulin mucin 4 (Tim4) and Tim1 as the pattern-recognition receptors for carbon crystals. Docking simulation studies reveal spatiotemporally stable interfaces between aromatic residues in the extracellular IgV domain of Tim4 and one-dimensional carbon crystals. Further, CRISPR-Cas9-mediated deletion of Tim4 and Tim1 reveals that Tim4, but not Tim1, critically contributes to the recognition of MWCNTs by peritoneal macrophages and to granuloma development in a mouse model of direct mesothelium exposure to MWCNTs. These results suggest that Tim4 recognizes MWCNTs through aromatic interactions and mediates phagocytosis leading to granulomas.
Keywords: Caspase-1; IL-1β; Tim-1; Tim-4; molecular dynamics simulation; nanomaterials.
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