TAM receptors in phagocytosis: Beyond the mere internalization of particles

Immunol Rev. 2023 Oct;319(1):7-26. doi: 10.1111/imr.13267. Epub 2023 Aug 19.


TYRO3, AXL, and MERTK constitute the TAM family of receptor tyrosine kinases, activated by their ligands GAS6 and PROS1. TAMs are necessary for adult homeostasis in the immune, nervous, reproductive, skeletal, and vascular systems. Among additional cellular functions employed by TAMs, phagocytosis is central for tissue health. TAM receptors are dominant in providing phagocytes with the molecular machinery necessary to engulf diverse targets, including apoptotic cells, myelin debris, and portions of live cells in a phosphatidylserine-dependent manner. Simultaneously, TAMs drive the release of anti-inflammatory and tissue repair molecules. Disruption of the TAM-driven phagocytic pathway has detrimental consequences, resulting in autoimmunity, male infertility, blindness, and disrupted vascular integrity, and which is thought to contribute to neurodegenerative diseases. Although structurally and functionally redundant, the TAM receptors and ligands underlie complex signaling cascades, of which several key aspects are yet to be elucidated. We discuss similarities and differences between TAMs and other phagocytic pathways, highlight future directions and how TAMs can be harnessed therapeutically to modulate phagocytosis.

Keywords: TAM receptors; homeostasis; inflammation; phagocytosis.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phagocytosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins* / metabolism
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase / metabolism


  • Axl Receptor Tyrosine Kinase
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase