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Receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands mediate cell-cell communication and interaction in many organ systems, but have not been known to act in this capacity in the mature immune system. We now provide genetic evidence that three closely related receptor tyrosine kinases, Tyro 3, Axl, and Mer, play an essential immunoregulatory role. Mutant mice that lack these receptors develop a severe lymphoproliferative disorder accompanied by broad-spectrum autoimmunity. These phenotypes are cell nonautonomous with respect to lymphocytes and result from the hyperactivation of antigen-presenting cells in which the three receptors are normally expressed.
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