The anticoagulant factor protein S (PS) protects neurons from hypoxic/ischemic injury. However, molecular mechanisms mediating PS protection in injured neurons remain unknown. Here, we show mouse recombinant PS protects dose-dependently mouse cortical neurons from excitotoxic NMDA-mediated neuritic bead formation and apoptosis by activating the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-Akt pathway (EC(50) = 26 ± 4 nm). PS stimulated phosphorylation of Bad and Mdm2, two downstream targets of Akt, which in neurons subjected to pathological overstimulation of NMDA receptors (NMDARs) increased the antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-X(L) levels and reduced the proapoptotic p53 and Bax levels. Adenoviral transduction with a kinase-deficient Akt mutant (Ad.Akt(K179A)) resulted in loss of PS-mediated neuronal protection, Akt activation, and Bad and Mdm2 phosphorylation. Using the TAM receptors tyrosine kinases Tyro3-, Axl-, and Mer-deficient neurons, we showed that PS protected neurons lacking Axl and Mer, but not Tyro3, suggesting a requirement of Tyro3 for PS-mediated protection. Consistent with these results, PS dose-dependently phosphorylated Tyro3 on neurons (EC(50) = 25 ± 3 nm). In an in vivo model of NMDA-induced excitotoxic lesions in the striatum, PS dose-dependently reduced the lesion volume in control mice (EC(50) = 22 ± 2 nm) and protected Axl(-/-) and Mer(-/-) transgenic mice, but not Tyro3(-/-) transgenic mice. Using different structural PS analogs, we demonstrated that the C terminus sex hormone-binding globulin-like (SHBG) domain of PS is critical for neuronal protection in vitro and in vivo. Thus, our data show that PS protects neurons by activating the Tyro3-PI3K-Akt pathway via its SHGB domain, suggesting potentially a novel neuroprotective approach for acute brain injury and chronic neurodegenerative disorders associated with excessive activation of NMDARs.