Adaptive immunity is characterized by the expansion of an Ag-specific T cell population following Ag exposure. The precise mechanisms, however, that control the expansion and subsequent contraction in the number of Ag-specific T cells are not fully understood. We show that T cell/transmembrane, Ig, and mucin (TIM)-4, a receptor for phosphatidylserine, a marker of apoptotic cells, regulates adaptive immunity in part by mediating the removal of Ag-specific T cells during the contraction phase of the response. During Ag immunization or during infection with influenza A virus, blockade of TIM-4 on APCs increased the expansion of Ag-specific T cells, resulting in an increase in secondary immune responses. Conversely, overexpression of TIM-4 on APCs in transgenic mice reduced the number of Ag-specific T cells that remained after immunization, resulting in reduced secondary T cell responses. There was no change in the total number of cell divisions that T cells completed, no change in the per cell proliferative capacity of the remaining Ag-specific T cells, and no increase in the development of Ag-specific regulatory T cells in TIM-4 transgenic mice. Thus, TIM-4-expressing cells regulate adaptive immunity by mediating the removal of phosphatidylserine-expressing apoptotic, Ag-specific T cells, thereby controlling the number of Ag-specific T cells that remain after the clearance of Ag or infection.
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