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J Recept Signal Transduct Res. 2010 Dec;30(6):430-43. doi: 10.3109/10799893.2010.518151. Epub 2010 Oct 14.

A discrete affinity-driven elevation of ZAP-70 kinase activity initiates negative selection.

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  • 1Laboratory of Transplantation Immunology and Nephrology, Department of Biomedicine, University Hospital Basel, Basel, Switzerland.



Although ZAP-70 is required for T-cell development, it's unclear how this kinase controls both positive and negative selection.


Using OT-I pre-selection thymocytes and a panel of peptide major histocompatibility complex (pMHC) ligands of defined affinity, the recruitment, phosphorylation and activity of ZAP-70 was determined at the interface with antigen-presenting cells (APCs).


pMHC ligands promoting negative selection induce a discrete elevation of ZAP-70 recruitment, phosphorylation and enzymatic activity in the thymocyte:APCs interface.


The quantity of ZAP-70 kinase activity per cell is a key parameter controlling the fate of a developing thymocyte since partial inhibition of ZAP-70 kinase activity converted negative into positive selection. Surprisingly, the amount of ZAP-70 enzymatic activity observed during negative selection is not controlled by differential phosphorylation of the ZAP-70 protein but rather by the total amount of T-cell receptor and co-associated ZAP-70 recruited to the thymocyte:APC interface.


These data provide evidence that a burst of ZAP-70 activity initiates the signaling pathways for negative selection.

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