The thymus contains many apoptotic cells that arise from the process of positive and negative selection. Both thymic macrophages and thymic nurse cells/nursing thymic epithelial cells (nursing TECs), non-professional phagocytes, recognize and ingest apoptotic cells without inflammation or tissue damage. Previously we reported that human scavenger receptor class B (SR-B1) is involved in recognition of apoptotic thymocytes by nursing TECs. In this study, we examined the expression and role of a phosphatidylserine receptor (PSR). This receptor is believed to participate in the clearance of apoptotic cells. PSR was strongly expressed in nursing TECs. Transforming growth factor-beta augmented the expression of PSR leading to enhanced binding of apoptotic cells to nursing TECs. In nursing TECs, suppressed expression of human SR-B1 with anti-PSR antibody decreased binding of apoptotic thymocytes to nursing TECs. Our results suggest that both PSR and SR-B1 are expressed in nursing TECs and these receptors appear to play a major role in the clearance of apoptotic cells from the thymus.
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