Macrophage receptors function in pattern recognition for the induction of innate immunity, in cellular communication to mediate the regulation of adaptive immune responses, and in the clearance of some glycosylated cells or glycoproteins from the circulation. They also function in homeostasis by initiating the engulfment of apoptotic cells. Evidence has suggested that macrophage receptors function to recognize cells that are destined for programmed cell death but not yet overtly apoptotic. We have examined the function of a macrophage receptor specific for unsialylated glycoproteins, known as the mouse macrophage galactose- and N-acetylgalactosamine-specific lectin (mMGL) (Ii et al., J. Biol. Chem. 265:11295-11298, 1990; Sato et al., J. Biochem. [Tokyo] 111:331-336, 1992; Yamamoto et al., Biochemistry 33:8159-8166, 1994). With targeted disruption, we tested whether mMGL is necessary for macrophage function, controlled thymic development, the loss of activated CD8 T cells, and the turnover of red blood cells. Evidence indicates that mMGL may play a nonessential role in several of these macrophage functions. Experiments are presented that indicate the existence of another galactose- and N-acetylgalactosamine-recognizing lectin distinct from mMGL. This may explain the absence of a strong phenotype in mMGL-deficient mice.
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